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Remarks of Gregory G. Nadeau, FHWA Administrator

AASHTO Spring Meeting

Meeting of the Board of Directors

Des Moines, Iowa

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

INTRODUCTION

It’s a great honor to join you today representing not only my colleagues at the Federal Highway Administration, but our nation’s transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx.

I want to use my time to give you a progress report on some of the issues we discussed at the annual meeting in Chicago last September, and update you on some others.

When we met back in September, I was newly confirmed as Administrator and spoke with you about my priorities and those of Secretary Foxx, including his commitment to making sure transportation provides Ladders of Opportunity for the American people.

So, as our partners in these endeavors, I believe you’re due a status check on where things stand – and a sense of the work still ahead.

SECRETARY’S PRIORITIES – CONNECTING PEOPLE TO OPPORTUNITY

I’d like to start with something of great personal and professional importance to Secretary Foxx.

Other than safety, the relationship between transportation and opportunity is his TOP PRIORITY.

This is a very personal issue for the Secretary, reflecting his experience growing up in a part of Charlotte, North Carolina that was cut off from the rest of the city by a couple of interstate highways.

This not only posed physical barriers, but – according to the Secretary – had a psychological impact as well, relegating the neighborhood to second-class status.

This was not only happening in Charlotte, but in cities all across the country, cutting off communities – often poor, minority communities – from OPPORTUNITY.

We can’t un-do what’s been done.

But as you know as well as I, our nation is at a point where our aging infrastructure needs extensive replacement and rebuilding.

That presents us with an opportunity.

In preparing our transportation system for the future, we have a chance to create a system that works for ALL people in ALL communities, linking them to opportunity while preserving and safeguarding their neighborhoods.

The Secretary has provided a clear and compelling roadmap for making that happen.

He’s laid out three core principles of what he calls inclusive design.

On behalf of Secretary Foxx, I’d like to share those principles with you:

  • First, transportation connects people to opportunity and can invigorate opportunity within communities.

    To the greatest extent possible, we should support transportation projects that do both.

  • Second, while we can’t change the past, we can ensure that current and future transportation projects connect and strengthen communities, including areas that have, in the past, been on the wrong side of transportation decisions.

  • And, third, transportation facilities should be built by, for and with the communities impacted by them.

Development of transportation facilities should meaningfully reflect and incorporate the input of all the people and communities they touch.

We all understand that transportation decisions we make together today will have an impact – positive or negative – for generations to come.

The Secretary urges us to make decisions that lead to investments in which all communities will benefit by connecting them to opportunity.

And so, I join Secretary Foxx in urging your support for the core principles of an inclusive transportation system.  

REVIEW OF PRIORITIES – FAST ACT

I want to turn now to updating you on the progress we’ve made on some of the priorities that make up our agenda.

When we met in September, I told you I had ambitious plans to make the maximum use of the time I had left serving Secretary Foxx and the Obama administration.

I pledged to make our partnership the centerpiece of an ongoing effort to serve the safety, mobility and economic needs of the traveling public.

To meet those goals, I laid out four major priorities that I not only shared with you, but that I presented to Congress in the course of my confirmation.

So let me start by briefly revisiting those priorities.

We all shared the goal of working with Congress to achieve a long-term funding bill.

And so, as Paul Trombino was quoted as saying at the time, it was a “tremendous relief” to see Congress pass and President Obama sign the FAST Act.

I couldn’t agree more!

Nor could I be prouder of the tremendous effort Secretary Foxx put forth to raise the issue of transportation investment with Congress and the American people.

Through dozens of congressional meetings, two bus tours and visits to 43 states over two years, the Secretary made the case that investing in America’s infrastructure was an investment in America’s economic future and the well-being of its people.

The word you hear most often in connection with the FAST Act is “certainty” – a critical element in the ability of our partnership to fund, plan, develop and deliver projects.

From our standpoint, we see the FAST Act as a down payment on the important work that lies ahead.

The Secretary’s Beyond Traffic report has injected a sense of urgency to that work, with its projection that the United States will be home to 70 million more people and need to move 45 percent more freight by 2045.

I know you’re very familiar with the FAST Act itself, but I do want to update you on our work implementing it.

Bud and a few others from AASHTO joined us at DOT two weeks ago to discuss implementation.

I can’t speak for Bud, but from our standpoint it was a very productive meeting.

We explained that we’re moving quickly to distribute as much funding as possible to maximize the impact of the new law.

About 92 percent of the FY 2016 FAST Act funding was apportioned by early January.

We’ve also issued notices for a number of other funding opportunities, including UTC grants, FASTLANE Grants and TIFIA loans.

And we’ve issued more than 50 guidance documents, nearly 400 Q&As and other materials to make sure all stakeholders have the information they need.

The dialogue between FHWA and AASHTO will continue throughout the implementation process.

REVIEW OF PRIORITIES – SAFETY

The second priority I mentioned back in September is really our top priority as an industry – and that’s to continue our work to improve safety on our roads.

Several months ago we issued the two final rules related to safety – the Highway Safety Improvement Program rule and the Performance Measures rule for that program.

Both of those rulemakings were initiated under MAP-21, and we included changes made by the FAST Act.

We also continue to work with our state and industry partners to implement the next generation of roadside safety hardware as aggressively as we can.

We’ve launched a two-year pilot study to evaluate the in-service performance of the common “end terminals” currently in use around the country.

We’ll be collecting data in Missouri, Pennsylvania, California and Massachusetts, and we hope to issue a final report by the end of 2017.

We’re also expecting a report from GAO on our oversight of roadside safety hardware and related state policies and practices.

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

And, as you know, AASHTO has established a schedule to transition to the MASH standards on the testing and design of roadside safety hardware.

REVIEW OF PRIORITIES – EVERY DAY COUNTS

Third, I pledged to the Secretary and Congress to continue the progress being made through our Every Day Counts innovation partnership with the States.

Innovation – in all its forms -- has no greater champion than Anthony Foxx.

From the beginning of his tenure, he’s embraced our Every Day Counts partnership and been its greatest advocate.

My pride in this partnership is sincere and so is my gratitude to each of you for what we’ve accomplished – and for accomplishments yet to come.

Congress, the American people and our fiscal realities demand that we become more efficient in project delivery and more aggressive in deploying time-saving, money-saving and life-saving technologies.

That’s exactly what this partnership between FHWA and the state DOTs has done.

We’re now mid-way through our 3rd round of EDC.

Yesterday, Tom Harman briefed the AASHTO Innovation Initiative on our roll out of the Round 4 innovations later in the summer.

We’ve showcased 32 innovations during the first three rounds, with each state deploying ten or more.

From the very beginning, Every Day Counts was envisioned as a state-driven, stakeholder-engaged partnership.

Today it’s thriving thanks to several factors:

  • The engagement and leadership by state CEOs, AASHTO, FHWA and USDOT. Without this leadership, Every Day Counts would not be possible;
  • The engagement and support of our partners in the private sector;
  • A formal process to establish, evaluate, and select innovations; and
  • Clear goals and performance metrics.

And I must add, the leadership of former FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez. I will always be grateful to Victor for giving all of us the opportunity to build EDC over these last several years.

The benefits of this collaboration are remarkable.

As you know, I always like to offer a few examples or success stories to support the Every Day Counts story.

Here are a few:

  • It typically took 72 months to complete the environmental impact assessment required for major projects. Now thanks in part to a number of EDC innovations, that process has been streamlined to an average of 42 months – a 40% savings in time and resources.

  • The number of states using new intersection and interchange geometrics more than doubled under EDC to 38.

    I often cite the work of Charlie Zelle’s Minnesota’s DOT to build Restricted Crossing U-Turns at 10 locations with a history of severe right angle crashes.

    This was done at one-tenth the cost of converting these at-grade intersections to interchanges. And there have been no severe crashes at the new R-CUT locations.

  • I also like to highlight the acceptance of High Friction Surface Treatments by 37 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico – up from 14 states at the beginning of EDC Round 2.

    One of my favorite examples is the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee, which saw 219 crashes in the 3 years before HFST was applied, but only 9 crashes in the 3 years after.

  • Scott Bennett in Arkansas used STIC Incentive funds to customize software, upgrade systems and hire experts to train his team in 3-D Modeling.

    This is improving the project design process and bringing greater efficiency to project delivery.

  • And in Michigan, Kirk Steudle and his team are using e-Construction to create a paperless construction environment.

    E-Construction comes from the partnership between FHWA and the AASHTO Innovation Initiative.

    In 2014, the A-I-I selected e-Construction as a focus technology, and it was then selected to be part of round 3 of Every Day Counts.

    States report saving as much as $40,000 per project per year using this technology.

    And, of course, there are also time savings.

    A research project involving the Washington, Minnesota, and Texas DOTs estimates e-Construction saves almost two hours per day per inspector and allows the inspector to collection 2 to 3 times more information about the project.

These are all great examples of how EDC innovations are saving time, saving money and – most importantly – saving lives!

To me, the ultimate endorsement of EDC was Congress choosing to recognize the work we’ve done together by including it by name in the FAST Act – essentially making it the law of the land.

It’s a remarkable acknowledgement of OUR success and the commitment you and your predecessors have made to innovation.

AASHTO INNOVATION INITIATIVE MOU

I want to pick up on the e-Construction example and its origin in the AASHTO Innovation Initiative.

It helps me transition into an exciting announcement strengthening FHWA’s commitment to AASHTO as a major partner in advancing innovation in transportation.

Yesterday, Bud and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding formalizing the relationship between the AASHTO Innovation Initiative and our FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation.

The A-I-I is under the leadership of my good friend Rich Tetreault from the great state of Vermont – and I want to thank him, Kirk, Paul, Bud and everyone else for their great work on making this joint venture possible.

This MOU formalizes our already strong partnership on Every Day Counts and provides funding support from FHWA to foster new innovations for the EDC pipeline.

I’m also committing the support of my team at FHWA to making this joint venture a success.

In signing the agreement, AASHTO and FHWA are signifying our sustained commitment to innovation and to the role our partnership plays in fostering the EDC pipeline and supporting the deployment of innovative solutions.

I’m also pleased that our Center for Accelerating Innovation is partnering with

A-I-I on a new peer awards program to recognize excellence in the State Transportation Innovation Councils.

The award will be one of the many ways we grow the culture of innovation by recognizing excellence and sharing best practices.

MONARCH HIGHWAY MOU

Our partnership also extends to environmental health on our highway roadsides.

I’m particularly grateful to Charles [Charlie] Zelle, Commissioner for Minnesota’s DOT, who took the lead on preparing a draft Memorandum of Understanding that memorializes a multi-state agreement for the support of a monarch highway route.  

I also want to acknowledge Bruce Rodan from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The White House has been a leader in protecting pollinator habitat and we’re all extremely pleased to join that effort.  

This MOU will establish a cooperative and coordinated effort to promote best practices and public awareness of the monarch butterfly and other pollinator conservation efforts.

I look forward to signing this important MOU after my remarks.

REVIEW OF PRIORITIES – INNOVATION NETWORK

That sets the table for the final priority I want to update – and that’s building on our innovation network.

Or, more correctly, COMPLETING that network!!

On Monday, April 18, Ford Fuchigami, Director of the Hawaii Department of Transportation, and Mayela Sosa, our FHWA Division Administrator in Hawaii, signed their State Transportation Innovation Council Charter COMPLETING THE NATIONAL STIC NETWORK!!!

This is something I’ve thought about, talked about, even dreamed about since we launched EDC in 2009.

But thanks to our work together, we now have a complete network with a STIC in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and our Federal Lands Highway program.

The completion of the National STIC Network is a significant milestone, and I thank you for your leadership and commitment to the collaborative culture represented by the STICs.

But, as we celebrate this long-awaited day, let’s put things in perspective.

This isn’t the finish line. It’s the starting line.

We need to engage the national network more fully than ever – learning from each other’s successes and failures.

I look forward to continuing to nurture and develop this network because I think it has a still-untapped potential to identify and deploy innovations that could be advanced through Every Day Counts.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in those efforts.

OFFICE OF INNOVATIVE PROGRAM DELIVERY

I want to transition here to talk about some organizational changes we’ve made at FHWA.

But rather than just being “inside baseball,” these changes will have a direct bearing on the innovation network I’ve just described – offering that network a new level of support.

The changes are within our Office of Innovative Program Delivery and our Office of Technical Services.

First, the changes in OIPD.

The Office will be comprised of four centers. These centers will provide greater focus and visibility to our efforts to advance innovation in several aspects of our transportation business.

The changes build off our EDC efforts, complement the establishment of the National Surface Transportation and innovative Finance Bureau – known from here on as The Bureau -- and fully support Ladders of Opportunity.

They’ll further develop and utilize networks we currently use -- like State Transportation Innovation Councils, the LTAP/TTAP network and Regional Workforce Centers.

The Office of Innovative Program Delivery (OIPD) will be led by our first Chief Innovation Officer, Tony Furst.

The part of the reorganization that’s most relevant to the innovation network is the decision to bring the Center for Accelerating Innovation into OIPD. 

The Center will continue its current mission of facilitating the rapid deployment of innovation through our Every Day Counts partnership and will continue to support the NEWLY COMPLETED national STIC network.  

I’ve talked in the past about taking that network to the next level and helping it cement a permanent and central role in the future of our industry.

I believe that putting the Center in OIPD under the leadership of Tony Furst and Tom Harman will provide the support the network needs to reach that next level.

The other centers that will now fall under OIPD are:

The Center for Innovative Finance Support - This center will support the Bureau by providing resources and technical assistance in the areas of tolling, GARVEE bonds, and State Infrastructure Banks or SIBs. 

It will serve as FHWA’s connection to the Bureau and work with it to identify and coordinate FHWA technical assistance for transportation projects receiving Bureau support.

The Center for Transportation Workforce Development – We’ve established this new center to provide national leadership, coordination and direction for the workforce elements of existing FHWA programs, like regional workforce centers and the Universities and Grants Programs.

It will support the On-the-Job Training component of the federal-aid program by advancing innovative practices in workforce development.

And we will work to leverage established Department of Labor networks and FHWA’s regional workforce centers to develop opportunities for transportation workforce development outside of FHWA.

I also look forward to working closely with you and our partners at AGC and ARTBA on the new joint initiative to attract, develop and train the transportation workforce of the future.

We’re already discussing the engagement of other stakeholders to contribute to this effort.

The Center for Local-Aid Support - This newly established center will provide national leadership and direction to the LTAP and TTAP networks to advance innovative practices in those communities.  

I also want to mention the changes in our Office of Technical Services - OTS.

This is not an organizational change as much as a renewed focus.

FHWA will be investing more resources to modernize our knowledge management policies and practices to continue to improve the professional capacity of FHWA and that of our partners.

This effort will be led by our Chief Technical Services Officer, Amy Lucero.

FREIGHT ROUNDTABLES

As you know, I started holding a series of Beyond Traffic Freight Economy Roundtables around the country beginning in February.

We’ve held 15 so far, including one on Monday here in Des Moines co-hosted by Paul Trombino and attended by Bud Wright.

My thanks to everyone who’s joined us and taken part in the roundtable in your state.

We have at least 9 more to go.

One of the goals of the roundtables is to highlight the tremendous growth in freight – a tsunami, as I describe it -- that Beyond Traffic says will be coming our way.

But they’re also intended as a place for discussion and sharing ideas.

Paul Trombino has played a big role in inspiring that!

He’s written and spoken very persuasively about the role our transportation system plays in helping our businesses compete, succeed and create jobs - what I call the freight economy.

In some of the communities we’ve visited, 30-to-40 percent of the jobs have some connection – direct or indirect – to freight.

Paul has also challenged us to work more closely with the business community to better understand their transportation needs and the challenges they face.

That’s been the foundation of the roundtables, as we bring together government leaders, manufacturers and shippers in each community to discuss these issues.

We’ve heard quite a few interesting stories highlighting successes and opportunities we haven’t seized yet.

The Miami roundtable had some of each.

The Port of Miami tunnel, which opened in August 2014, is a clear success story.

This project gives trucks a direct connection to and from the Port and made the surrounding area safer and less congested by taking thousands of trucks off city streets each day.

This addresses a concern we heard in a number of roundtables, which is the impact of trucks on local streets and local communities.

The Port is the second largest generator of economic activity in South Florida, supporting 176,000 jobs, $6.4 billion in wages and $17 billion in economic activity.

On the other hand, a story we heard about Mt. Sinai Hospital on Miami Beach represents an opportunity we could seize with more investment.

There’s so much traffic – freight and otherwise – on the roads surrounding this major medical center that many of the doctors and other staff find it difficult to get to work, not to mention the delays faced by patients and their families.

The situation has gotten so bad that some of the doctors and staff are said to be looking for jobs at other hospitals, which would have an economic impact on the hospital and the community.

We also talk in the roundtables about specific projects that would greatly improve freight movement, but don’t have the funds to move forward.

When we held our first roundtable in Atlanta, we talked about the proposal to add designated truck lanes to a congested part of I-75 – a project that would result in safer, less congested travel for all users.

The project is in the Governor’s 10-year transportation plan, but all the funds haven’t been identified.

I also use the roundtables as a chance to raise the issue of truck parking and the coalition we’ve formed with you and other stakeholders to address that important issue.

So these have been very informative and educational sessions.

Again, I appreciate all the participants taking the time to join us.

CONCLUSION

So that’s my overview of what we set out to do, and where we stand toward achieving it.

I hope when we meet in the fall in the great city of Boston, we’ll be able to reflect on promises made and promises kept.

The one overriding priority I have – one that really supports all the others -- is to maintain the strong, respectful working relationship we have with each other.

I can assure you the Secretary is committed to this ideal as well.

That relationship is critical to accomplishing our other goals, including the smooth implementation of the FAST Act, the improvement of safety on our roads, and the deployment of innovation through our newly completed STIC network.

And it’s at the center of our efforts to achieve the Secretary’s goal of connecting communities and people to opportunity.

I’m excited for the months ahead, and optimistic about the success stories we’ll continue to write together.

Thank you very much.

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