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Welcoming Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

Beyond Traffic Freight Roundtable

Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Hello, everyone, and welcome. I appreciate everyone taking the time to join us for the first in a series of freight roundtables we’ll be holding across the country.

We came here to Atlanta to listen to you and learn from you.

As the people on the frontlines of manufacturing, shipping and government your insights are very important to us.

Delivering transportation infrastructure to the American people is – by law and in practice – a partnership assisted by the federal government and administered by the states.

So I’d like to acknowledge our partners here today – GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry and Daniel Studdard, Senior Planner with the Atlanta Regional Commission.

I’d like to get things started by offering a little context in the form of a quote. Here it is:

“Our system of transportation is the greatest in the world. But we must face facts. We must have the courage to let our people know that our system is no longer adequate.”

Who do you think said that?

It sounds a lot like what our Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, has been saying as he’s traveled across the country.

Maybe some of you have said something similar.

But those are actually the words of President Lyndon Johnson as he signed the bill creating the US Department of Transportation 50 years ago this fall.

The Department is going to be celebrating this anniversary throughout the year and highlighting the work it’s done – along with our state and local partners – to give America a world-class transportation system.

But we also need to do as President Johnson suggested. We need to face the facts.

We need to better understand and better communicate the important role transportation investment – especially in our freight infrastructure -- plays in the economic development of this region, this state and the nation as a whole.

The Atlanta region has the 7th highest freight volume among major US markets. More than 80 percent of that freight moves by truck – well above the national average.

We also know that freight is a tremendous economic driver – accounting for more than 100,000 direct jobs here in the Atlanta region.

Those numbers represent what I call the “freight economy.”

But the freight economy can’t thrive unless it’s supported by a strong network of roads, rails, ports, airports and other infrastructure.

And so I believe the most important transportation investment we can make is one that supports the freight economy and the jobs it creates.

One of the real forward thinkers on this subject is the president of AASHTO, Paul Trombino, the Director of Transportation for the state of Iowa.

Paul has become a leading voice in explaining why directing investment to our freight infrastructure is so important.

It goes beyond the obvious – creating jobs on project sites – to encompass the larger idea that a robust freight infrastructure helps companies reduce operating costs, improve efficiency, increase competitiveness and create jobs.

While we’re facing facts, here’s one more to consider.

For all the trucks moving freight in the Atlanta region today, there may be three times more in 2040.

That’s similar to what we project on a national level in a report we issued last year called Beyond Traffic, which sees the country being home to 70 million more people and moving 45 percent more freight by 2045.

Those numbers present us with two choices.

We can harness the power of more people and more freight so it’s a boon to our economy, creating opportunity and prosperity for our children and grandchildren.

Or we can fail to respond, turning the increased demand into a chokepoint that undermines our quality of life.

Meeting the challenge won’t be cheap.

Today, our nation has more than $860 billion in un-met bridge and highway needs.

One of those “un-met needs” is south of here along I-75 between McDonough and Macon.

The addition of two designated truck lanes along that corridor would help improve safety and mobility for everyone on the road and help the growing number of trucks move more efficiently – making Georgia businesses more competitive.

It’s in the state’s ten-year major mobility investment plan. But all the funds have not been identified.

And so as a nation we’ll need to step up our long-term investment and be strategic in where and how we target our resources.

And we’ll need to put innovation to work so we get the greatest value for every dollar and to help ensure that trucks and cars can share the roads safely.

That’s why we’re so pleased you could join us.

We need your input into how to focus our investments so they help the system perform better and create what Secretary Foxx calls Ladders of Opportunity.

The Ladders philosophy is at the heart of everything we do. It reminds us that transportation is the connection between people and their jobs, their school, their doctor.

And it’s the connection between goods and the people who buy them.

And so we look forward to hearing from you and the people we’ll be meeting at roundtables all across the country on how we can build those Ladders.

We’re going to take what we learn and synthesize it into something that will be useful to all communities as they plan for the future.

Again, thank you for taking the time to join us. I look forward to our discussion.

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