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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO)

DFW-Texas Heavy Highway Panel

Dallas, Texas

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Before I begin… on behalf of Secretary Foxx and USDOT, I want to extend my deep condolences to the people of Dallas, the Dallas Police Department and the DART organization.

The shootings Thursday shocked the nation, and especially so with us since one of the five victims was a transit officer. Officer Brent Thompson was part of the transportation community.

The President was absolutely right when he called this a vicious, calculated and despicable attack. We owe them – and ALL law enforcement officials – debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice, and for ensuring our safety at the expense of their own.

I appreciate the chance to join my distinguished colleagues on this panel.

Under the leadership of our transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, the Department is taking a very serious look at how to meet the social, mobility and economic demands of the nation over the next several decades.

The Secretary’s Beyond Traffic study found trends similar to what they’re seeing here in North Texas.

Beyond Traffic projects the population of the United States will grow by 70 million people by 2045, and we’ll need to move 45 percent more freight.

I call it a tsunami of people and freight headed our way.

If you think most of those people will be teleworking and most of that freight will be delivered by drones, think again!

Since February, I’ve been traveling the country holding a series of freight roundtables to hear first-hand from manufacturers, shippers and government officials.

They’ve told us loud and clear about the challenges, bottlenecks and chokepoints that sap billions of dollars out of our freight economy.

And each of you knows what it’s like to be stuck in traffic when you’re trying to get home for your children’s soccer game or school event - or just home for dinner with your family.

So we need to pursue some solutions – starting TODAY.

We need to increase our investment in infrastructure.

We need to give people more choices.

And we need to deploy innovative solutions to get the maximum value for each dollar the public and private sector invests.

We’re doing that through an innovation partnership with state, county and local governments, the private sector, and the academic community called Every Day Counts.

But the need to repair, rebuild and prepare our system for that tsunami of people and freight gives us an opportunity to do “right” some of the things we may have gotten wrong the first time.

Secretary Foxx has started a national conversation around the connection between transportation and opportunity.

This is something that’s both personally and professionally important to the Secretary – reflecting his experience growing up in a part of Charlotte, North Carolina that was essentially cut off from the rest of the city by two Interstate highways.

Not only did this physically limit access to and from his neighborhood, but it also had a psychological impact – giving the neighborhood a sense of second-class status.

This wasn’t only happening in Charlotte, North Carolina and it wasn’t only because of highways.

While transportation was helping get some people from Point A to Point B, it was having a negative impact on some communities – often poor, minority communities – that bore the brunt of transportation decisions they had no role in shaping.

While we can’t undo the past, we can work to make sure current and future transportation decisions connect and strengthen communities.

I want to highlight some of that work with you today, focusing on our hosts here in North Texas, but really using them as examples for what’s going on around the nation.

They’re excellent examples of what the Secretary is talking about.

And so I want to talk briefly about how we’re:

  • Working together to make sure transportation projects are built with the input of the communities impacted by them. I’m sure you’ll hear more about that from Stephanie Jones, a senior adviser to the Secretary, when she keynotes tomorrow’s plenary session.

  • Making sure small businesses, and businesses owned by women and minorities can compete for work on highway projects, and have employees ready to do the job!

  • And re-focusing our efforts to make sure transportation works for all people in all communities – connecting them to jobs, school, health care and a better quality of life.

TODAY is the day to start planning for and investing in that kind of system because the decisions we make today will have an impact – positive or negative – for generations to come.

Texas has already taken a leadership role in looking at projects through that lens.

TxDOT Executive Director Jim Bass and his team are doing some path-breaking stuff.

In its CityMAP study, TxDOT has been systematically looking at the major roads in this area and coming up with options for preparing them for the future.

To its credit, TxDOT has been reaching out to community and stakeholder groups to get their input and hear their concerns about proposed solutions.

What the Secretary would be especially happy to know is that in addition to getting feedback about such traditional factors as mobility, the discussions also involve such non-traditional factors as livability, quality of life and economic development.

You’re seeing an example of this as the state considers what to do about I-345.

This elevated highway was built in 1974, and currently carries about 200,000 vehicles per day.

TxDOT is looking at a range of options for repairing or replacing it – the same kind of discussions that are taking place in cities all across the country.

One of the ideas under consideration is removing the elevated road and replacing it below grade to help “stitch” neighborhoods back together.

There’s still a long way to go before a final decision is reached.

But an important discussion is taking place, one that doesn’t just focus on transportation, but on the link between transportation, neighborhoods and opportunity.

I want to use the balance of my time to highlight some of the outstanding work being done to improve the infrastructure here in the Dallas region and prepare this community to meet the demands and embrace the opportunities of the future:

DFW CONNECTOR

A little more than three years ago, my predecessor as Administrator, Victor Mendez, helped cut the ribbon on the DFW Connector.

This project was seen as critical to bringing congestion relief to the region, improving the flow of goods and improving access to DFW Airport.

But the Connector took on a symbolic value much greater than the impact of the roadway itself.

This was the largest single investment under President Obama’s Recovery Act, passed in the early days of his administration to help the nation recover from the worst economic decline since the Great Depression.

The project put people to work, and now that it’s completed, it continues to create jobs by supporting the regional economy and improving the quality of life.

DALLAS HORSESHOE

This project, which is currently under construction, involves replacing aging bridges and roadway along I-30 and I-35 East – an area known to the people of Dallas as the Horseshoe because of its U shape.

The project area ranks as one of the most congested in the state and needs the significant upgrade it’s getting to meet current and future demand.

This is an $818 million project, and the main contractor has taken extensive steps to include DBE firms on the project.

The project has a DBE goal of 8 percent, which the contractor has not only met – but surpassed.

The contractor’s commitment to DBEs on this project is actually 9-and-a-quarter percent or $66.7 million.

The project uses Design-Build contracting, which is one of the innovations we’ve been advancing in our Every Day Counts innovation partnership to get projects delivered sooner.

We expect this project to be finished by late next year.

SM WRIGHT

This project is a good example of what the Secretary means when he talks about removing barriers and connecting communities.

The first phase of the project involves a new connection between US 175 and I-45. This work is already underway.

And the second phase would remove the elevated SM Wright Freeway, which was built in the late 1950s and cuts through an historic African-American neighborhood in south central Dallas.

The elevated roadway would be replaced with an at-grade urban boulevard, which would help rejuvenate the corridor through commercial investment and development.

It would also eliminate a safety issue on a section of roadway known by the unfortunate name of Dead Man’s Curve.

This project got approval under SEP-14 for local hiring preferences.

And the prime contractor has been very aggressive in seeking DBE and Small and Minority Business participation.

The prime contractor has met the DBE goal for this project of 13.3 percent, equal to $13.8 million.

And they’ve also contracted with Small and Minority Business Enterprise firms for just over $16 million – an additional 9 percent of the contract above the DBE utilization.

The contractor continues to seek small and minority business participation.

So there’s a lot of important work being done here to prepare this community for the future and address some of the issues created by earlier generations of construction.

And there’s a strong effort to engage the entire community in that work.

In fact, TxDOT can be very proud of the DBE participation that’s being achieved in this state.

For the first half of this fiscal year – October 1, 2015 through March 31 of this year – DBE participation reached 14.4 percent or $273 million – exceeding the goal of 11.7 percent.

I’m pleased to say we’re seeing similar progress in many other states as well.

In FY2015, two-thirds of state DOTs met their DBE goal – a jump of 14 percent from five years earlier.

That translates into thousands of jobs.

And we see more and more funding going to DBEs.

For FY2015, out of $34 billion in federal aid awarded nationally, almost $4 billion went to DBEs.

We continue to work with states in helping DBEs build capacity, so they not only have a chance to compete for work, but do the job successfully.

We’ve also made some changes internally at FHWA to that will help open new opportunities for people considering a career in transportation.

We’ve re-organized our Office of Innovative Program Delivery to increase its focus on advancing a culture of innovation and providing new opportunities to partners, stakeholders and the public.

Within this office, we’ve created the Center for Transportation Workforce Development to provide national leadership in workforce development starting as early as elementary school and continuing into adulthood.

The Center will look to leverage networks already set up by the Department of Labor along with FHWA’s regional workforce centers to develop new opportunities for people who might want a career in transportation.

There’s plenty of work to do, and so we need as many smart, talented people as we can get.

We’ve also joined with AASHTO, ARTBA and AGC in a coordinated effort to address the challenges of building the transportation workforce of the future.

We’re pleased to have COMTO and its outstanding president, Mioshi Moses, working alongside us in this important effort.

This is all in the spirit of what Secretary Foxx refers to when he says transportation isn’t just about getting places better. It’s about making places better. And it’s about connecting people to opportunity.

It’s clear that TxDOT and others here in the region have been thinking about that for a while and taking a new look at projects that were originally designed to help speed people into the city – but at the expense of neighborhoods in their path.

And I know Dallas is joined by cities all across the country in that important effort. I look forward to talking about that – or anything else you have in mind – during our discussion.

Thank you very much.

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