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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-10-002    Date:  Jan/Feb 2010
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-10-002
Issue No: Vol. 73 No. 4
Date: Jan/Feb 2010


Guest Editorials

In Building the Nation's Transportation Future, Every Day Counts

The last 13 years have ushered in some significant changes in our lives. The Blackberry® went from an idea to a cultural phenomenon. Facebook went from being a social networking system at one university to become a major social, political, and commercial force. And, as my younger friends remind me, country singers like Taylor Swift went from grade school to superstardom.

But in the time it took for these remarkable changes to take place, major highway projects have plodded along from conception to completion. We need to do better. And thanks to a new emphasis on innovation, we will.

The American public cannot afford to wait an average of 13 years for major projects to be delivered. Near term, an improving economy will put more people and more freight on the Nation's roads and highways. And there are estimates the U.S. population will grow by 63 million people in the next 20 years, and the volume of freight will double by 2020.

So the public faces the unpleasant prospect of more congestion, more pollution, and more time wasted in traffic unless the transportation community can deliver major highway projects faster. And by faster, I also mean smarter.

But as we deliver projects faster and smarter, let's remember several other factors. Safety is--and will always remain--the top priority of the U.S. Department of Transportation. And while we continue to see a drop in highway fatalities, we can't be satisfied. Nor will we ever lose our focus on protecting and improving the environment.

I believe we can create 21st-century highways in half the time it takes to deliver a project today. But it's going to require a concerted effort at the Federal, State, and local levels and the help of partners from the private sector to think creatively and find ways to be more innovative in what we do and how we do it. Many States already are using innovation to make a difference on their roadway projects, and you can read some examples in "Highways for LIFE" on page 2 in this issue of Public Roads.

I also want the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to focus more on innovation. In November 2009, we launched an innovation initiative called Every Day Counts. We chose the name for a couple of reasons. First, it captures the sense of urgency I feel about this subject. And, second, it reflects the public's sense that every day counts when you're hoping for relief from traffic congestion.

Every Day Counts contains two parts. I'm challenging my colleagues at FHWA to work with the transportation community to cut project delivery time in half and to speed up use of the latest technologies. And I'm urging all FHWA employees to find innovative ways to make internal agency operations greener.

We welcome any ideas that can help us reach these goals. If you have a solution that will help speed delivery of highway projects or promote innovation, send it to everydaycounts@dot.gov. But don't wait. After all, every day counts.

Victor M. Mendez


Federal Highway Administration



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