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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

American Traffic Safety Services Association Legislative Conference

Washington, DC

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Good morning, everyone.

Thank you, Roger, for that kind introduction.

Somewhere along the line, Roger (Wentz, ATSSA President) and I were probably on flights that crossed paths over the Atlantic.

He was in Amsterdam recently, and I just got back yesterday from a trip to Amsterdam and Warsaw.

My original plan was to stay home today and try to get over my jet lag.

But because ATSSA is such an important and valuable partner in keeping America safe, I wanted to come by and thank you for everything you do.

I’m sorry that my trip to Europe kept me from joining you for the kick-off of the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week.

I’d been to the last three kick-off events, and was hoping to keep my streak alive.

But I know FHWA was well represented by our Deputy Administrator, David Kim.

And we’re proud to stand alongside you in trying to keep the people who work and drive in work zones safe.

I also wanted to come here today because it’s been a while since I’ve been at one of your annual Washington meetings.

I took a look back through my old calendars and found that I last spoke to ATSSA in April of 2010 – exactly six years ago.

It’s interesting to look back to those days and the issues that were at the top of our agendas.

FHWA was in the midst of implementing the Recovery Act to help lift the nation out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We ultimately worked with our state and local partners to deliver 13,000 projects, improve 42,000 miles of road, and put thousands of people to work revitalizing our transportation system and making it safer.

Six years ago, we were in the early days of launching our Every Day Counts innovation partnership with state and local governments and private sector partners – like you.

Working together, we were starting to put a new focus on innovation and the role it plays in improving safety, reducing congestion and delivering the greatest value for every dollar the public invests in transportation.

And, when we last got together, we were starting to look beyond SAFETEA-LU and planning for the next reauthorization.

Little did we know it would take more than six years and 30-plus extensions before we’d finally get the FAST Act – the first long-term transportation bill in a decade and a down payment on building America’s 21st century transportation system.

The challenges we faced six years ago have not gone away.

We still need to make our system safer, get greater value for our investments, and prepare our system for the future.

Last year around this time, our transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, released a report called Beyond Traffic, which – in my view – brought a new sense of urgency to addressing those issues.

Beyond Traffic is a look ahead to the year 2045, when the United States will be home to 70 million more people and need to move 45 percent more freight.

If you’re thinking most of those people will be teleworking and much of that freight will be delivered by drones, I urge you to think again.

Most of the additional people and freight will be sharing the roads with the rest of us.

It’s our job as a transportation community to make sure we can all share the roads safely and efficiently, so the projected growth boosts our economy and improves our quality of life - instead of choking it.

While I was in Amsterdam, I attended an Expo where a lot of new technology was on display – much of it focused on improving safety and reducing congestion.

I had the chance to talk with some of the people involved in a major trial program called Practical Trial Amsterdam or PTA.

It’s an innovation partnership of government agencies, the private sector and research universities.

One part of the trial uses technology in ramp signals and traffic lights to regulate the flow of traffic in and around the 810 – a major highway.

The other part delivers personalized route and travel time information to the driver’s smart phone.

It’s interesting that drivers don’t all get directed to the same alternate route so those routes don’t become too congested.

This is an exciting and very forward-looking example of V2I communication and the role it can play in keeping our society and our economy moving – and moving safely.

But it also speaks to a bigger point, which is the need to start planning and investing TODAY to meet the demands we’ll face in the future.

The FAST Act, which President Obama signed into law in December, certainly gives us tools for doing that.

It includes a greater federal investment in highways and an increased emphasis on freight – including, for the first time, funding dedicated just to freight projects.

And it builds on the data-driven approach to decision making that was put into law under MAP-21.

Nowhere is the reliance on data going to be more important than in our efforts to improve safety.

Secretary Foxx made that point when he committed the Department to join with our partners in embracing the Toward Zero Deaths safety vision.

The Secretary pledged the Department to use all the tools at its disposal – research, public education, technology, infrastructure investments and working with our partners to support data-driven strategies.

The Highway Safety Improvement Program -- HSIP – is a core federal-aid program that encompasses that approach.

It recognizes that states face different safety challenges, and it gives them a framework – based on data – for prioritizing their safety investments.

There’s no doubt this approach is working.

Though we saw a slight increase in roadway deaths last year, the nation has seen a 25 percent drop in fatalities since HSIP was established in 2005.

The FAST Act increases HSIP funding and reinforces the importance of data to improving highway safety.

The FAST Act also includes a couple of provisions that relate specifically to the issue of roadside safety hardware.

Working with our state and industry partners, we’re moving forward to implement the next generation of this hardware as aggressively as we can.

The FAST Act calls for a study to evaluate different methods for tracking roadside hardware as part of good asset management practices - What’s out there? Who made it? Where has it been installed—and when?

We’re just getting started on this effort, with a report to Congress due January 1, 2018.

The FAST Act also expands the use of the Work Zone training grants to include training for people who install, maintain and inspect roadside safety hardware.

Later this spring, we’ll go out with a grant announcement to organizations that want to develop the training and deliver it to state and local agencies – at no cost to them.

There’s also work being done outside the FAST Act on the roadside hardware issue.

FHWA has launched a two-year pilot study to evaluate the in-service performance of the common “end terminals” currently in use across the country.

We’re going to collect data in four states – Missouri, Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts.

We hope to release the final report by the end of 2017.

FHWA is also expecting a report from the GAO on our oversight of roadside safety hardware and related state policies and practices.

And we’ve engaged our Volpe Center to conduct an independent review of the entire process for developing and evaluating roadside safety hardware.

We expect to receive those reports this summer.

Looking at the bigger picture, FHWA is focused on implementing all aspects of the FAST Act.

There’s a full-court press underway at our agency to get that done.

We’re getting funding in the hands of states, local governments, MPOs and others as quickly as possible.

We’re issuing guidance to fill in the details of the new law and answer stakeholder questions.

And we’re making progress on rulemakings related to MAP-21 and the FAST Act.

The final rules on the Highway Safety Improvement Program and Safety Performance Measures were published in March and went into effect last week.

Each of these rules includes changes made by the FAST Act.

Together, these rules will improve decision-making, enhance collaboration among safety partners, and give the American public transparency as states set and report on safety targets.

Before I take your questions, I want to turn to another important part of the safety equation, and that’s our Every Day Counts innovation partnership.

It’s a partnership where ATSSA has made a major contribution.

Since I spoke with you in 2010, we’ve rolled out and implemented three rounds of Every Day Counts innovations – about a dozen per round.

These include process innovations that are helping states and local governments deliver projects sooner.

And they include the widespread deployment of proven technologies that are saving time and money on projects, and, most importantly, saving lives.

By the way, we’re currently finalizing the list of innovations that we’ll be advancing in Round 4. We hope to roll them out near the end of the summer.

But I always tell people that if you want to see how Every Day Counts is working, there’s no better example than High Friction Surface Treatments.

This innovation was part of Round Two in 2013 and 2014.

When the two-year cycle started we estimated that 14 states were using this technology.

That number grew to 37 under Every Day Counts, with at least five states making it standard practice for reducing crashes at critical locations.

But the real story isn’t just about deployment. It’s about results – the lives that are being saved.

I often use the example of the Wisconsin DOT, which installed this treatment at the Marquette interchange ramp from I-94 to I-43 in Milwaukee.

The installation took place in 2011.

In the three years BEFORE installation, 219 crashes took place at this location.

In the three years AFTER, there were only NINE!

I used this example when I was speaking in Europe, and I use it often in speeches across the United States.

It really captures the value of Every Day Counts in a nutshell – how we can take relatively inexpensive technologies that we know ALREADY WORK, and give them a little “push” into mainstream use.

In the current round of EDC we’re advancing several more innovations that have a direct bearing on safety, including smarter work zones and road diets.

Road diets are now standard practice in 11 states and here in the District of Columbia. Another 30 states are starting to use them and to look for more opportunities.

One of the best examples is a project not far from here in Reston, Virginia – out near Dulles Airport.

Reston designed road diets on two roads that each carry 10,000 vehicles a day, and were prone to speeding.

After the project was finished, crashes on the two roads decreased by almost 70 percent.

And we’re seeing dozens of states and the District use strategies and new technologies to make work zones smarter, safer and reduce their impact on the traveling public.

Now, ATSSA is continuing to share its expertise in this area by producing a booklet with a dozen Smart Work Zone case studies – literally “writing the book” on this important safety subject.

But here’s the bottom line, as I see it…

Every Day Counts isn’t just about individual strategies or technologies.

It’s about advancing a way of thinking and making the search for innovative solutions a permanent part of the transportation culture.

We want people to look beyond the status quo and be constantly on the lookout for ways to do things better, faster and smarter.

We’ve worked with our government and private sector partners in each state to set up State Transportation Innovation Councils – known as STICs.

It’s always been my goal to have a STIC in every state – and we’re VERY CLOSE to realizing that goal.

Hawaii is the only missing piece, and we’re hoping it will come online later this spring or summer.

The STICs are important because that’s where innovations are considered and decisions are made about which to deploy.

They put the state in the driver’s seat to choose the innovations that best fit their needs.

One of the other reasons I wanted to be here today is to personally thank you for being active and engaged members in STICs all across the country.

Your voice is an important part of the innovation conversation, and I appreciate your willingness to “answer the call” – so to speak – and take part.

We anticipate the STICs playing an important role well into the future, even if the day comes when Every Day Counts no longer exists by name.

The STICs will be the individual pieces of an innovation network that encourages the sharing of ideas, but leaves the ultimate decisions up to each state.

That network will be a legacy we can all be proud of.

So, again, thank you.

I always close my speeches by reminding people that the most important piece of safety equipment is the one behind the wheel – the driver.

Even as we enter the world of driverless cars and smarter infrastructure, the driver will always have a critical role to play.

As part of the transportation community, you can help by setting a good safety example for your family, your friends and your colleagues.

That’s especially important in the busy summer season, when more people hit the road with their family and when more work zones are set up along the nation’s highways.

We love seeing those work zones. They’re a sign that we’re preparing for the future while creating jobs today.

But we must keep them safe.

So I urge everyone to always buckle your seat belt, put away your phone when you’re driving – no texting or email when you’re behind the wheel – and simply drive safely.

Thank you very much!

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