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Remarks as prepared for delivery by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

AASHTO Board of Directors

Chicago, Illinois

Monday, September 28, 2015

First, I want to thank Bud Wright, not only for his generous introduction, but for the wise counsel he not only provides to all of you, but to FHWA as well. The only person at AASHTO that may know as much or even more about the Federal-aid highway program is King Gee. And he now works for you too.

Both are ongoing sources of wisdom and provide me and FHWA important counsel as we leverage our partnership to get things done along with your capable and committed staff - we rely heavily on your team to maximize the impact of all we do together.

I also must take this opportunity to congratulate John Cox on his very successful year as AASHTO’s President. John’s counsel and example is something I will always remember with gratitude. I worked for a Governor. They always turn to their ace when something important needs to be done.

John has added value and provided effective leadership throughout his career in public service to his beloved Wyoming, and now to America. Thanks for your great work at WYDOT and for AASHTO, John.

And congratulations, Paul (Trombino), on your ascension to the Presidency. I have so enjoyed working with you in your various leadership capacities, and of course as CEO in Iowa. I very much look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

This is a very important day for me. In 2002, I attended my first AASHTO meeting in Philadelphia, PA. I spent 12 years as a member of the Maine House of representatives, and then spent 8 years as a Senior Policy Advisor to Maine’s then Governor Angus King.

So when I became MaineDOT Deputy Commissioner, I was anxious to learn more about the federal-aid program and how other states approached the administration of their program. It began a 13-year journey of learning and administering this unique federal, state and local partnership.

I spent a total of twenty seven years in state government. I have now spent 6 years at the federal level. I have come to believe that the partnership between FHWA and AASHTO is integral to the safety of the traveling public, and to the future growth of our economy. You and I hold key positions in the governance of this partnership.

What many of you have helped me learn through this experience is that together, we have a substantial ability to innovate in the delivery of this essential program we call federal-aid. Defined in statute as federally assisted and state administered, the states play the central role in the business of maintenance, building and rebuilding of our highway and bridge infrastructure.

FHWA is assigned the responsibility of administering this program by Congress, and by the Secretary. Our role in the success and development of this unique federal, state and local partnership is integral as well.

Simply put, the federal role is to raise the capital necessary to provide the financial support to state and local governments for planning and project development, and program delivery. Today’s federal-aid program was born in the era of the interstate highway program – an example of transformative infrastructure that changed America -- successfully delivered because of the ingenuity and brilliance of America’s engineers, in a little over 30 years.

Since then, policy evolution from ISTEA to MAP-21 has prepared our program for the 21st century.

The United States possesses project development and delivery capacity unmatched around the world. The private sector has developed capacity over decades that can rebuild America’s infrastructure – but only if we put them work. The most innovative project delivery system in the world can do and must do more to prepare for the system infrastructure we need to take on the challenges articulated in Beyond Traffic.

This being my first Board of Directors meeting as Administrator, I want to use my time to cover a number of topics and make a few announcements. I apologize in advance for taking a little more of your time than I ordinarily would, but these are not ordinary times. They’re offered in the spirit of partnership that is the hallmark of our relationship.

Having been at FHWA for six years – and having served as Acting Administrator for almost two prior to my confirmation – I have had the opportunity to work closely with Secretary Foxx in support of his Ladders of Opportunity vision, and have come to clearly understand that he’s not talking about a government program.

He is calling on all of us to come together to ensure that the work we do contributes to connecting and restoring communities, helping industry train and hire people in the towns and cities we serve, provide for freight mobility and economic growth. Building the ladders philosophy in everything we do is something I am particularly anxious to partner with you to advance.

My confirmation comes at a critical point in the calendar and the life of the Obama Administration. And I must pause for a moment to thank:

  • President Obama and Secretary Foxx for my nomination and their faith in me;

  • Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Boxer, and the EPW Committee for their unanimous recommendation of my nomination to the Senate;

  • And my own home state Senators Angus King and our Senate Appropriations THUD Sub-Committee Chair, Susan Collins, for their appearance at my hearing in support of my nomination.

EPW from the enactment of MAP-21, to the efficient action on multiple nominations, to the passage of the DRIVE Act in the Senate, personifies the meaning of bipartisan cooperation.

Finally, I’m also grateful for the support of AASHTO and many of you throughout the process.

Now, let’s think ahead just one year.

When we get together in Boston next year for your Annual Meeting, the election will be over and we’ll be in that period of uncertainty that comes between administrations, even between presidents of the same party. Not to mention there will be a new incoming Congress.

We’ll be looking back on what I know will have been a successful year and celebrating the things we accomplished together.

My plans are straightforward.

I intend to work with you to take maximum advantage of this next year to put points on the board – meaningful, worthwhile points that serve the safety, mobility and economic needs of the American people.

I intend to make sure every priority, every policy and every project helps create a transportation system that connects people to opportunities, protects and revitalizes communities, and gives people safe travel options – what Secretary Foxx calls Ladders of Opportunity.

I shared some of my thinking with Congress during my confirmation process, meeting with Senators one-on-one before my hearing, providing written and oral testimony, and answering questions during the hearing itself.

Virtually every Senator had something positive to say about the partnership between FHWA and their state DOT and the progress we’re making to improve project delivery.

That partnership is really the fundamental strength of the Federal-aid Highway Program.

Working together – as we have in the past and as I know we’ll continue to do in the future – we accomplish more and have a greater impact than we could ever have acting alone.

PRIORITIES

But those meetings on the Hill involved more than niceties.

The Senators had questions, specifically about what I hoped to accomplish if I was confirmed – a real concern given the inevitability of the election-year calendar.

It’s clear they want to see FHWA have a sense of focus and they expect me to provide it. Regardless of the political calendar, the people they represent – and you represent -- still have to get up every morning and commute to work.

The Senators, their constituents, you and I want that trip to be as safe and easy as possible.

So I want to share with you what I told the Senators about my plans for the agency – my key priorities. It’s a short list. I always feel that if you have 7, 8 or 9 priorities they’re not really priorities at all. They’re a “to-do” list.

My priorities build on the solid foundation of the work we’ve done together.

And they’re in line with the priorities Secretary Foxx has set for the Department and his commitment to connecting communities and people with opportunities.

So, here they are.

My most pressing priority in terms of the calendar is to lead the Agency in support of the Secretary’s and Congress’ efforts to ensure sufficient, sustainable, long-term funding.

I realized recently that on August 10th we marked a transportation milestone.

It was on that date ten years ago that President George W. Bush signed SAFETEA-LU into law, the last long-term transportation funding bill this nation has had.

It wasn’t an anniversary that called for celebration. The record of our transportation investment over these last ten years is a story of missed opportunities, and a cautionary tale of where we could be headed if Congress fails to pass a long-term, well-funded bill this year.

As the people on the frontlines, you know better than anyone how our investment has failed to keep up with our needs.

In Secretary Foxx you have a tireless and passionate champion for long-term funding in general and our GROW AMERICA proposal in particular.

Some key concepts we built into GROW AMERICA, especially in the areas of freight and streamlining project delivery, were included in the DRIVE Act, a six-year bill that won bipartisan approval in the Senate and is now the vehicle for future discussions with the House.

As the Secretary recently told the National Press Club, the DRIVE Act is a step forward, one that gives us reason for optimism.

But the DRIVE Act falls short in the critical area of funding – short of what we proposed in GROW AMERICA and short of what our country needs. Keeping the Trust Fund solvent – as the DRIVE Act would do -- is important. But it’s not enough. We need a bill that addresses the immediate needs of today and also allows us to plan and build for the future.

I’m sure you saw the latest statistics. Americans now spent an average of 42 hours each year stuck in traffic – the equivalent of an entire work week.

In what some would consider a fitting example of life imitating art, commuters in Washington, DC face the worst gridlock in the nation – 82 hours of delay per commuter each year. In other words, two weeks of every year spent going nowhere.

As bad as the situation is today, it will only get worse without a long-term funding plan.

According to the Department’s “Beyond Traffic” framework, there will be 70 million more people living in the United States and relying on our infrastructure just 30 years from now.

The study shows that the population will concentrate in 11 clusters known as mega-regions.

Already today, 75 percent of our population is clustered in these 11 mega-regions, each one already feeling the strain of a system in dis-repair.

How will they cope with more people, a 45 percent growth in freight movement and other challenges we see coming our way over the next 30 years? It’s clear that transportation will play a critical role determining the quality of life, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability of each region.

And so the current pattern of funding our system through a series of short-term patches isn’t going to cut it. And so my most pressing priority is to support Secretary Foxx as he champions a long-term funding solution.

I know many of you, and your Governors, have lent your voices to that discussion as well. Yours are critically important voices that Congress needs to hear.

While reauthorization is our most pressing priority, we have no more important priority than safety. And so I’m committed to working with each of you to continue to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.

We’ll base our efforts on two pillars.

First, we’ll work with you to build on the data-driven, strategic approach embodied in the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

And, second, we’ll continue to work with states on deploying safety counter-measures and other technologies, including those we’re advancing in Every Day Counts.

Whenever I speak about Every Day Counts – which I know is quite often -- I make it a point to refer to it as an “innovation deployment partnership,” highlighting the fact that the partnerships among FHWA, state and local governments, and the private sector have led to its success.

That success is the reason parts of EDC were codified in MAP-21.

And it’s the reason Every Day Counts was codified by name in the DRIVE Act – a real tribute to the work we’re doing together.

Ultimately, there will be no higher tribute than knowing that lives were saved because a bad curve was treated sooner, an intersection was made safer or a new safety technology was deployed where it was needed.

Technologies like:

  • Safety Edge, now a standard technology in 40 states;

  • High-Friction Surface Treatments, now used in 37 states, up from 14 during EDC Round 2;

  • Or Traffic Incident Management training, where more than 117,000 first responders have been trained as of July 1.

I know I stand with Secretary Foxx and each of you in making safety our top priority.

My third major priority combines the goals of Every Day Counts with the ongoing debate over transportation funding.

There will never be enough money to do everything we want or even need to do.

With budget constraints at all levels of government, we must make it a priority to maximize the public’s investment in transportation by delivering the best value for every taxpayer dollar.

Through our innovation partnerships, you’re delivering projects in less time and for less money so those valuable and finite resources can be invested in more projects.

States are currently starting to deploy the 3rd round of EDC innovations. And, in December and January, we’ll start the solicitation for ideas for Round Four – each new round building on the success of the last.

Consider this: Every state has used 8 or more EDC innovations, and some have used more than 20!

For example, we’ve doubled the number of states improving the NEPA process through the Quality Environmental Documents initiative. Thank you for your leadership on that.

Speaking of NEPA, MAP-21 provided flexibility to allow states to assume our NEPA responsibilities. Of course, the state would need to waive sovereign immunity.

At this time, several states have taken advantage of this flexibility. I encourage states that have interest to give this consideration. We’re more than willing to work with you to achieve a successful outcome.

The environmental review process is also at the heart of a series of actions announced last week by the Secretary Foxx, the White House and the Council on Environmental Quality.

As part of that effort, the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard is being expanded so that best practices become common practices on major projects.

It’s intended to drive better coordination across agencies involved in projects that are expected to see complex and potentially long federal environmental permit and review processes.

And the Red Book is being updated for the first time since 1988.

The revised Red Book will include more practical, real-world techniques to help you better coordinate environmental reviews and permitting.

This is part of an ongoing commitment by the Obama administration to bring greater efficiency to project delivery and greater urgency to addressing our infrastructure needs -- while still protecting and improving our environment.

When it comes to maximizing investment, we also look forward to seeing the gains that performance-based decision-making will bring.

FHWA is focused on completing the rulemakings to implement the MAP-21 performance provisions.

There will be a total of six rulemakings. Five of them have been issued as proposed rules, with AASHTO and a number of states providing useful and constructive comments. The final rulemaking to establish measures for system performance, congestion, emissions and freight movement is scheduled for later this year.

FHWA has been working in partnership with AASHTO and other key stakeholders for many years to prepare for these new performance requirements.

The commitment from AASHTO to form a standing committee on performance management, along with our commitment to dedicate an office to coordinate implementation has prepared us well to transition to this new approach.

We’ll be providing assistance and technical support to states as these new requirements are implemented.

And so as Congress continues its debate over funding, it’s important that we continue to work as partners to take advantage of all the tools at our disposal to show lawmakers that we’re good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and have a strategy for finding ways to get maximum value for every dollar they invest in transportation.

Some of you have heard my favorite Lincoln quote. Lincoln said if I had 6 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 4 hours sharpening my axe. These are all our way of sharpening our axe.

My fourth and final priority looks farther into the future.

It involves taking what we’re building and advancing to the next level, so that this focus on innovation becomes a permanent part of the transportation culture.

We’re well on the way.

47 states and as of this week, the Virgin Islands, have established chartered State Transportation Innovation Councils to consider and deploy innovative solutions, whether they come from EDC, SHRP2, AASHTO or the idea of someone working at a cubicle in your department.

All states are actively involved at a high level in plans to expand their efforts in the pursuit of innovation.

Although it was not contemplated when AASHTO and FHWA first launched EDC, STIC’s have blossomed as a consequence of the EDC model and the biennial Regional Innovation Summits we jointly developed and conducted together. A national transportation innovation network has emerged.

Many STICS, led by State DOT CEO’s and FHWA Division Administrators, have taken the mission of their STIC in unique and very productive directions. And their work is not just limited to EDC initiatives. They’re organic, they adapt to your environment, cultures, and business practices.

What’s important are the stakeholders that are brought together to discuss what innovations can have the greatest impact in your state.

I invite you to join me in taking our innovation partnership to a new level. I propose a joint venture between AASHTO and FHWA aimed at ensuring that the pursuit of innovation is sustained, and supported with our resources.

MAP-21 authorized and funded FHWA’s Technology and Innovation Deployment Program, better known as TDIP. We’ve harnessed $32 million of those resources to support states and locals, and have built an infrastructure at FHWA that will sustain it on our end.

I was so pleased to learn that the AASHTO Innovation Initiative Sub-Committee has developed options for AASHTO to consider on how to organize its innovation deployment efforts.

Kudos to chairman Rich Tetreault, your 2015 Thomas H. MacDonald Memorial Award winner, for leading the effort. I pledge on behalf of FHWA to provide whatever support we can muster to help.

It’s going to be my goal in the year ahead to join you in continuing to build and strengthen our transportation innovation network into a national source of innovative thinking and innovation deployment.

So those are my priorities: Achieving long-term funding. Improving safety. Maximizing investment and maximizing the impact of our innovation network.

I believe they’re reasonable, achievable and – most of all – meaningful in terms of delivering results to the American people, building stronger partnerships with the states and making the case to Congress for future investment.

I look forward to pursuing them with you.

But to truly build Ladders of Opportunity we need to dig a little deeper inside those priorities to supplement the general goals with specific steps that take us closer to a safer society, connected communities and a stronger economy.

SAFETY

Let’s start with the one that I think we all consider our top priority – safety.

I want to start by thanking AASHTO and acknowledging the work you and your partners have done to advance the Toward Zero Deaths safety vision.

I’m proud to say that under Secretary Foxx, the entire US Department of Transportation has joined the majority of the States and the many stakeholders that embrace this safety vision.

When the Secretary announced the Department’s support of TZD he said: “It provides an overarching and common vision that drives and focuses our efforts to achieve our shared goal to eliminate injuries and fatalities on our roadways.”

He went on to say: “The U.S. Department of Transportation will do our part by aggressively using all tools at our disposal – research into new safety systems and technologies, campaigns to educate the public, investments in infrastructure and collaboration with all of our government partners to support strong laws and data-driven approaches to improve safety.”

That data-driven approach anchored our collaborative work on guardrail safety.

Let me again thank AASHTO and the state DOTs that were part of two task forces that dug into the details and thoroughly evaluated the data on this issue. Believe me, I know and appreciate how much time and effort this took.

Now, in concert with the recommendations of that collective work, it’s time to move forward and fully implement the next generation of roadside safety hardware as aggressively as we can. FHWA has already begun this shift.

Starting in 2016, we’ve announced we will no longer accept any modifications to current generation hardware that doesn’t include crash testing to the MASH criteria. And, of course, all new crash testing must be done to MASH criteria.

We look forward to working with AASHTO and the state DOTs to fully implement MASH by setting a clear and aggressive timeline for all new installations of roadside safety hardware to be MASH compliant.

I know your committees of jurisdiction on these matters are hard at work with my team in evaluating a comprehensive strategy aimed at pivoting to MASH in such a manner that a sustainable supply chain is maintained from the private sector. We can do this, together.

CONNECTED VEHICLES

Looking a little bit further into the future, we look forward to the benefits that connected and autonomous vehicles and a smarter infrastructure will have on safety. And we anticipate the role they’ll play in the ability to design smarter cities that connect every community to the 21st century economy and 21st century opportunities.

The Secretary recently made a major commitment to that future when he launched a connected vehicle pilot program in New York City; Tampa and rural Wyoming. FHWA will be supporting those pilots.

Building a smarter infrastructure by deploying Vehicle to Infrastructure technology will build on the technologies being deployed to support V2V applications.

While adoption of Vehicle to Infrastructure technology is not mandatory, there are obvious advantages to drivers if these technologies are adopted consistently across the country. And, on the flip side, lack of inter-operability will be a real barrier to success.

And so it’s our responsibility at FHWA to develop guidance, facilitate a national dialogue and develop tools so that all of us are on the same page in terms of understanding the technologies, their benefits and their costs. We’re already developing V2I Deployment Guidance that we anticipate releasing in late fall, along with supporting tools and products.

But, as in most aspects of transportation, nothing will be more important to the success of the connected vehicle environment than partnerships like the one we have with AASHTO.

AASHTO has already taken the lead in the V2I Deployment Coalition – a combined effort that also includes FHWA, ITE and ITSA. This Coalition is helping foster broader stakeholder participation from system owners and operators, public safety groups, professional associations, equipment manufacturers, and the academic community.

We also need to consider autonomous vehicles. Although this technology holds the promise of improved safety, it also has the potential to impact travel demand and increase congestion. We believe by integrating vehicle automation into the connected vehicle environment, we can leverage these two technologies to maximize their safety, mobility and environmental benefits.

DESIGN FLEXIBILITY

But while we continue to look toward the future, it’s important that we resolve issues that people have had concerns about in the past. Design flexibility is one of those. It’s been an area of interest for the states and local governments for a long while.

We believe this is an area where we can make progress right out of the gate by giving you the flexibility to deliver projects sooner and more efficiently – reinforcing one of my key priorities to maximize investment.

As many of you have noted, that flexibility will help you develop projects that meet the needs of a full range of users - drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. And we want those projects to support a community’s environmental needs and to serve as connections to work, school, health care and other essential services.

These benefits are right at the heart of our overall priority to make sure transportation projects create Ladders of Opportunity.

And so I’m pleased to announce several important developments here today.

First, we’ve prepared a Federal Register Notice for public comment outlining the policy changes we’re proposing on roads with speed limits of less than 50 miles per hour. We’ve met with your relevant standing committees to brief them on the details.

Our basic view is this: After reviewing considerable data and research, we’re proposing to reduce the number of controlling design criteria on NHS highways designed for speeds of less than 50 miles per hour from the current 13 down to 2.

On NHS roads with design speeds of 50 miles per hour or greater, the number of criteria will be reduced to 10.

The changes we’re proposing will give your engineers the flexibility to use their judgment and the autonomy to use their common sense instead of being burdened with extensive paperwork related to a list of criteria, some of which have been found to have little to do with improving safety or operations.

Second, we’ll also be publishing a final rule updating the AASHTO design standards to be adhered to on National Highway System projects. The updated standards will provide additional flexibilities to designers. The details were described in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we published in June.

Third, FHWA released its updated guidance on Bicycle and Pedestrian Provisions of Federal Transportation Legislation today.

The updated guidance includes 26 design references including standards, guidelines, and bike-ped resources that planners and design engineers can use as they design and implement projects.

When you add everything up, we want to actually let engineers do what they’re trained to do – BE ENGINEERS. And when you add the work FHWA is doing with states on expanding the use and understanding of performance based practical design, the tools I’ve just discussed are even more relevant.

We want to capture the ingenuity and brilliance that built the Interstate Highway System in 3 plus decades and have engineers apply the valuable lessons we learned from that experience. We’ve got much less than three decades to rebuild America’s transportation infrastructure to meet the tsunami of freight and the demands of 70 million more people. We’re going to have to harness that ingenuity to meet the demands on our system.

And we want to accomplish some important things:

  • Provide safer, multi-modal options that connect communities;

  • Address what I call sins of the past and restore communities that were divided;

  • Free up money you might have spent meeting the old criteria and use it for additional projects;

  • Invest that money in other strategies that help enhance your communities.

The next step is for you and for us to continue looking for places where we can streamline the process even more. We invite your ideas and your partnership in this joint venture.

FREIGHT

There’s no area where so many of our goals and priorities come together as they do in freight. Freight represents much of what we’re “about” as an industry and a society – improving safety, creating job opportunities, supporting a growing economy and protecting our environment.

Let me start with the safety part.

I was pleased that Bud was able to join us a few weeks ago representing AASHTO when we released the findings of our truck parking survey and announced the National Coalition on Truck Parking.

Truck parking is an issue that certainly has my attention – and I hope it has yours. It’s something we can – and should – start addressing right away.

At the event that Bud and I attended, we heard from Hope Rivenburg, whose husband, Jason, was killed in 2009 while he slept in his truck at an abandoned gas station in South Carolina. It was apparent that six years later, it’s still very difficult for Mrs. Rivenburg to talk about the tragic and senseless loss of her husband.

But, like many courageous people before her, Hope Rivenburg has turned her private grief into public action. She urged Congress to make Jason’s Law part of MAP-21. And now she’s inspiring the transportation community to provide safe places where commercial truck drivers can get off the road, stop and rest.

It’s an issue that not only affects their safety, but the safety of everyone who shares the road with them.

The results of the truck parking survey were clear. There’s a shortage of truck parking capacity across the United States. And where we do have safe and available truck parking, we lack a good system to get that information in real time to drivers, dispatchers and law enforcement.

I’m challenging all of us to work together to address that situation – to help keep our roads safe, our economy moving, and to spare more families from a painful and tragic loss.

When you look at the projections in Beyond Traffic, you see that this will become an even bigger issue in the future. We project that for every ten trucks on the road today, there will be four more 30 years from now.

So the need for safe truck parking facilities is only going to increase. Some states are already starting to address this issue.

Iowa has converted some old weigh stations that are no longer in service into truck parking facilities. This has added nearly 200 additional truck parking stalls.

Across the country, other state DOTs have used federal grant monies for projects to demonstrate technology solutions.

Going forward, we hope to see truck parking issues addressed in state freight advisory committees and state freight plans, and that states will prioritize their federal-aid funding to help address the parking needs in their active freight corridors. This administration is committed to working with you on this important safety issue.

In terms of advancing issues and reaching our goals, the Secretary will soon be releasing the National Freight Strategic Plan for public comment and consideration. This will be the first national comprehensive freight strategy in our history.

As many of you know, this MAP-21 requirement is intended to provide vital information on the condition and performance of our freight system, on congestion and forecasts, barriers to performance, and more.

The US DOT developed the plan using your input from roundtable discussions held across the country, from the good counsel of the National Freight Advisory Committee, and from the issues and best practices identified in your state freight plans. We look forward to your feedback when this is released, and on other evolving efforts to identify and improve our multimodal transportation system.

CIVIL RIGHTS

I can’t think of any step on the Ladder of Opportunity that’s more basic than a job.

The infrastructure decisions made at the federal, state, and local levels can foster economic development, create pathways to jobs, and improve the quality of life for residents in your state.

I ask for your support in recognizing business and workforce development as critical rungs of your civil rights program through compliance and oversight.

We need to ensure that we have a trained workforce to fill current and future gaps in the highway construction industry. We also need to ensure that we’re reaching out to those who’ve been historically underutilized in the construction industry.

That includes women and minorities who want the chance to work on our projects as well as small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities -- our DBEs.

Of course, that also carries responsibility on our part – like making sure potential workers have the needed training and skills, and that DBEs are able to navigate the “back office” requirements including bidding and payroll management.

FHWA’s Office of Civil Rights allocates $10 million in DBE supportive service (DBE/SS) funds each year to State DOTs to help you create and manage programs designed to contribute to the growth and eventual self-sufficiency of DBEs so they’re able to compete for and obtain highway contracts.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2015, FHWA requires State DOTs accepting these funds to implement a Business Development Program (BDP).

The structure of the program can vary, but the purpose is to identify underperforming DBEs with growth potential, conduct an individual assessment of the firm and create a business development plan to respond to the firm’s strengths and weaknesses. I think the USDOT Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and the Small Business Administration can be great partners of ours, and the DBE’s, in putting those business plans to work.

To receive FHWA approval, these business development plans must include detailed metrics to measure success. This year 45 States and Territories will be implementing one of these plans.

You may also be interested to know that on September 24th -- just last Thursday -- a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) was published in the Federal Register for the FHWA On-the-Job-Training Supportive Services Pilot Program, which is part of the Secretary’s Ladders of Opportunity Initiative.

We’re looking to award $3 million in discretionary grants in award amounts of up to $500,000, and applicants will be given greater consideration if they commit to leveraging the use of other resources for this workforce development initiative.

We have an obligation and an opportunity to build both workforce and business development capacities as part of our civil rights program. I hope you’ll join me in making these twin goals a priority in the year ahead. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for our economy.

CONCLUSION

Those are a few thoughts on some key priorities and issues we’ll be facing together in the year ahead. For every issue I’ve raised, we could talk about three more – and all of us would miss our flights home.

But whatever issues we confront – some we can foresee now, some we can’t – we need to see each one in terms of how it fits into building a better, safer system that creates jobs, connects people, restores communities and helps grow our economy.

And we need to think of how we can face each issue together as partners who are stronger together than we are alone.

I look forward to working with each of you this year. And I look forward to coming back next year to celebrate the things we’ve accomplished together.

Thank you very much.

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