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Remarks by Gregory Nadeau, Administrator, FHWA

Clean Corridor Meeting

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, New York

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Good morning, everyone!

Thank you for inviting me to help kick off this very important meeting.

It’s a pleasure to join you in celebrating the work many of you have been engaged in your entire careers.

I understand this meeting originated because of the high-level of commitment and interest by state transportation, energy and environmental agencies in the Northeast to address the consequences of freight movement – including congestion, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

I look forward to laying out my vision for how FHWA is going to help you achieve your goals to create a clean and sustainable transportation system, which has been described as the next step in advancing America’s 21st century transportation network.

And I also have an important announcement that I think you’ll appreciate. So, stay tuned!

We can’t really talk about the consequences of freight without first talking about freight itself.

I’ve been doing a lot of talking about freight this year, having recently wrapped up a series of freight roundtables that took us to 24 cities in a little less than 8 months – including several here in the Northeast.

We wanted to hear first-hand from people on the frontlines of what I call the freight economy, about the challenges they face in moving freight efficiently and how that impacts their ability to create jobs, stay competitive, and improve the sustainability of America’s communities.

The roundtables were inspired by a report issued last year by our transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, called Beyond Traffic.

This may be the most important document our Department has released in many years.

Beyond Traffic looks 30 years into the future to project what America will look like and what the demands will be on our transportation system.

The findings have started a national conversation about our preparedness and brought a new sense of urgency to the discussion around transportation planning and investment.

Specifically, Beyond Traffic projects that the United States will be home to 70 million more people and need to move 45 percent more freight three decades from now.

In some cases, the demands on the system will be even greater.

Here in our host state of New York, for example, freight volume is projected to grow even more – by 70 percent – by 2045.

Regardless of the specific number, there’s no doubt we’re going to be facing a tsunami of people and goods.

And I can assure you that not all those people will be teleworking, nor will all that freight be delivered by drones!

A tsunami of that size will choke our economy and diminish our quality of life unless we plan, prepare and invest in advance of it.

We really have no choice.

The challenge – as you know – is to create a system that can not only handle that level of demand, but do so in a sustainable way.

President Obama, Secretary Foxx and I care deeply about the future of our planet and have a clear understanding of the role transportation must play in securing that future.

Under the President’s leadership, the United States joined other nations in adopting the Paris Agreement and taking a decisive step toward avoiding the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Under the Agreement, each nation has to submit is own strategy and make its own commitments to reduce emissions in the near-term and beyond.

The United States has set ambitious targets:

  • A 17 percent reduction by 2020, compared to 2005 levels;
  • A 26-28 percent reduction by 2025 – again compared to 2005;
  • And an 80 percent emissions reduction by the mid-point of the century in 2050.

In the middle of all this activity, along comes our new transportation bill, the FAST Act, to focus the attention of the transportation community on our role in protecting our planet.

And that leads me to the exciting news I want to announce to you this morning.

The FAST Act requires US DOT to designate national electric vehicle, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling corridors by December 4, 2016.

This requirement gave FHWA a unique opportunity to facilitate the creation and expansion of a national network of alternative fueling and charging infrastructure along national highway system corridors.

The charge from Secretary Foxx and the White House? Think big and be creative.

The corridor designations not only provide a level of confidence to the user that the facilities will be there when needed, but they also expand and promote the marketplace for clean vehicles and fuels.

FHWA published a Federal Register notice on July 22, 2016 requesting corridor nominations.

As a resident of Maine, I’m proud to say that many came from the Northeast.

And so, it’s my pleasure to announce to this distinguished group today our initial designations, starting with the ones you’ll be most interested in – the ones here in the Northeast:

  • I-95 from Augusta, Maine to Petersburg, Virginia has been officially designated as an electric vehicle alternative fuel corridor, as have other corridors that run through many of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

  • Parts of Interstates I-95, I-91, I-90 and I-87 in the Northeast have been designated as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) corridors.

These corridors are “signage-ready,” which means that the national signage developed by FHWA can be placed along the corridor immediately.

We’re also announcing today designations outside of New England, including:

  • The majority of I-5 on the West Coast for electric vehicles;

  • Hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG), and liquefied natural gas (LNG) corridors for various interstates in California (I-10, I-15, I-405, US 101);

  • CNG and propane corridors in the Mid-West (I-80); and in Texas (I-35, I-30 & I-10);

  • EV corridors in the South (I-85 and I-75); and

  • Even corridors as far away as Maui and Oahu, Hawaii.     

Overall, there have been 55 Interstates – either the entire length or portions – in 35 states plus Washington, DC that have been designated as signage-ready for one or more fuels.

The corridors designated in this initial phase represent over 80,000 miles of the National Highway System.

Our office in Washington is putting out a press release and launching a website with the details “as we speak.”

And Diane Turchetta of our team is here, and will be happy to answer your questions.

FHWA intends to continue the designation process on a “rolling basis,” so the nomination process will be a continuous one.

I would encourage State and local agencies to work together to develop additional designation nominations – especially with a multi-state approach.

The ongoing designation process comes at a real inflection point of sorts for alternative fuel vehicles – what some have called the “i-Phone” moment for transportation electrification in particular – and as I mentioned, will serve to promote their use.

A new report published last month in Next-Gen Transportation News projects that demand for vehicles powered by CNG and LPG will grow by 10 percent every year for the next six years.

And we don’t have to just trust projections. Look at the market commitments themselves being made by Original Equipment Manufacturers – the OEMs.

The chairman of BMW announced last month that his company will produce electrified versions of all its current and anticipated models.

These announcements aren’t just restricted to high-end OEMs.

The 2017 Chevy Bolt is Chevrolet’s first-ever EV – with a range of 238 miles!

And Tesla already has around 400,000 pre-orders for its Model 3.

And while we can’t predict what other automakers will do, there will no doubt be pressure from consumers as they see not only the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, but the cost savings compared to gasoline.

And so it will become increasingly important that we have an infrastructure that supports this transition.

That’s why I encourage all of you to work with private industry to help fund the installation of alternative fuel facilities.

Government funding alone won’t be enough.

Through the use of public-private partnerships we can leverage funding and in some cases provide access to private equity.

Secretary Foxx is a big believer in the role these partnerships can play in preparing our infrastructure for the future.

He believes our infrastructure needs are so great that we don’t have the luxury of being what he calls “single minded” in our approach to funding.

Instead, he advocates an “all of the above” strategy that includes the private sector.

I agree whole heartedly!

That certainly applies to the infrastructure needed to support the expansion of clean fuel facilities.

I understand that day two of this meeting will consist of a workshop to identify how state transportation agencies can support greater use of alternative fuels in the movement of goods.

I would hope that all the State DOT’s in the Northeast step up to the plate and offer their expertise, available tools and policies to promote this important effort.

But I don’t want to leave the impression that support for alternative fuels represents the Department’s only efforts to protect and improve the environment.

We believe that everything we do to promote fuel efficiency in vehicles, reduce congestion on our roads or promote multi-modal freight movement serves to benefit the environment.

And we’re getting money out the door as quickly as possible to help make that happen.

For example, we recently awarded $500 million to 40 communities in the 8th round of our popular TIGER grant program.

By sparking local and private participation, that initial $500 million will turn into $1.7 billion in overall transportation investment.

The Secretary also just announced the initial round of FASTLANE grants, a new program established in the FAST Act with a strong emphasis on freight projects.

In fact, several of the FASTLANE grants have been awarded to freight projects in this region, including grants for an inter-modal port project in Massachusetts, an inter-modal port project in Maine, and a project at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

We heard a lot during our freight roundtables about the need to improve ports and inter-modal connections, so it’s good to see some of the FASTLANE grants addressing that issue – as do many TIGER grants.

By the way, a fourth FASTLANE grant for this region was awarded to a highway project in Rochester to untangle a major interchange known as the “Western Can of Worms.”

But here’s the bad news.

Demand for these grant programs far outstrips the money we have available – often by a factor of 10 or 20.

This shows the enormous un-met demand we have for infrastructure investment in this country.

And it shows that we can’t simply build our way to a cleaner environment.

One solution is to better target our investments so we get the maximum value for every dollar.

That’s something that’s really emphasized in the FAST Act through its language on state freight advisory committees and state freight plans.

Three weeks ago, we published guidance in the Federal Register to lay out what states will need to do to comply with the new law in those areas.

We strongly recommend that states create or – if they already have them – expand their state freight advisory committees.

We indicated in our guidance that these committees are supposed to include a broad cross-section of freight stakeholders, specifically including environmental stakeholders.

These committees are valuable forums for discussing freight issues, coordinating regional planning and priorities, and taking part in the development of the state’s freight plan.

I encourage you to make your voice heard.

Most states have freight advisory committees – and we’d like to see them in EVERY state.

In terms of freight plans, our Division Offices in each state are currently working with our partners on developing their FAST Act-compliant state freight plans.

Many states created freight plans under MAP-21, but those will need to be revised to comply with the new law.

These new plans are required by December 4 of next year in order for states to continue receiving their freight formula dollars – the National Highway Freight Program money.

And they’ll be critical to making sure future state and federal transportation investment aligns with the true freight needs of a state and region.

Our guidance specifically encourages states to take environmental sustainability into account when creating their plan.

And by the way, efficient movement of freight ALSO happens to reduce harmful pollutants like particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, commonly known as PM and NOx.

Finally, I want to turn briefly to the work we’re doing with our partners to advance innovative solutions and create a permanent culture of innovation in transportation.

Our gracious host school, RPI, is a fitting place to talk about innovation.

Many people consider this great school the birthplace of modern bridge building, thanks to the fact that a young man named Washington Roebling attended school here starting in 1854.

Roebling went on to work with his father in building the Brooklyn Bridge – now 142 years old and still going strong as a symbol of America’s commitment to ingenuity and innovation.

Our Department supports innovation in a number of ways.

Secretary Foxx recently announced $60 million in grants under the Advanced Transportation and Congestion Management Technologies Deployment program – another new program started under the FAST Act.

One of the deployments funded under this program will test technologies that give truckers information about wait times and parking at the US-Canada border in the Buffalo-Niagara area.

We all know the importance of trade with Canada and the need to reduce congestion and long wait times at the border, both for the environmental benefits and to help companies operate more efficiently.

We’re also pursuing innovative solutions through a partnership with state, local and regional governments and the private sector known as Every Day Counts.

EDC – as it’s known – is designed to advance process innovations that get projects delivered faster – a vital step in reducing congestion for motorists and freight carriers.

And it advances technologies that have been proven to save time and money, protect the environment and – most importantly – save lives.

I know these technologies may not be on the radar screen of many in this room, but I hope you’ll indulge me for a minute because – as I indicated earlier – we need to address climate change from a number of directions.

One of the most popular technologies we’ve ever supported in Every Day Counts is Warm Mix Asphalt, a product that can be placed on the road at a lower temperature than traditional Hot Mix.

Warm Mix has a lot of benefits, including the fact that it extends the paving season in cold-weather states like the ones in this part of the country.

This helps get projects built and it keeps people working!

From the standpoint of the environment, there are tremendous fuel savings from using Warm Mix and a significant reduction in emissions.

When we launched EDC in 2009, about 5 percent of the asphalt produced in this country was Warm Mix. Today that number is closer to 40 percent – equal to taking more than 150,000 cars off the road.

And so – to wrap up – there’s a lot of activity going on as we prepare to move more goods and more people while reaching ambitious environmental goals and creating a clean and sustainable transportation system.

While those may sound like several conflicting goals, they can actually be complementary, thanks to the work of people like you who recognize the role that infrastructure can – and must – play in our future.

It will take more than a single solution to build tomorrow’s infrastructure, depending instead on a range of innovative ideas, partnerships and alternatives.

Embracing innovation is the key if we’re going to seize the opportunity to protect this planet and ensure its future.

Thank you for your leadership and your commitment to this work.

Thank you for letting me share our announcement with you today!

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Page last modified on November 15, 2016
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