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Publication Number:  Vol. 62 No. 3    Date:  Nov/Dec 1998
Publication Number: Vol. 62 No. 3
Date: Nov/Dec 1998


TEA-21 Supports FHWA's Strategic Goals

by Kenneth R. Wykle

Adapted from Administrator Wykle's speech to the Mississippi Valley Conference of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Chicago on July 9, 1998.

In June, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA­21), the law that will chart our transportation course for the 21st century. We are excited about working with state transportation departments to provide the American people with a true 21st century transportation system.

We are happy with TEA­21 because it increases investment to a record level of $198 billion for six years with a guarantee that the funds will be spent on transportation. Under President Clinton, investment in the transportation infrastructure has already reached record levels. With TEA­21, there will be even more investment, but it won't be at the expense of other programs, and it doesn't jeopardize the balanced budget agreement.

TEA­21 maintains the key provisions of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) while adding modifications and new programs that will produce overall improvements in the transportation system.

TEA­21 is the blueprint for our infrastructure in the 21st century. It is a bill for what Vice President Gore calls the "'New Economy and Information Age' ­ fueled by innovation, driven by new technology, shaped increasingly by minds and not just matter."

With its combination of increased funding and improved programs, TEA­21 will help us realize the vision of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create the best transportation system in the world.

The system should be safe and efficient with significantly reduced crashes, delays, and congestion. It should be a system in which freight moves easily across borders, roads protect ecosystems, travel does not degrade our air quality, and pedestrians and bicyclists are accommodated.

Following the lead of my predecessor, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, we are working to establish a transportation system that is intermodal in form, international in reach, intelligent in character, and inclusive in nature: "Intermodal" as shown by the Chicago's Corwith rail yard, which handles huge amounts of intermodal freight. "International" as shown through growing freight movements with Canada and Mexico and by the I­69 NAFTA corridor from Port Huron, Mich., to the lower Rio Grande Valley and by connectors to the river ports along the Mississippi River. "Intelligent" as shown by deploying intelligent transportation systems in metropolitan and rural areas with new technologies with tags on rail cars with 1,300 readers and by EZ Pass tolls and Fast Toll. And "inclusive" with access to all in rural and urban areas and by providing the means to open up the interiors of states.

TEA­21 moves us towards a 21st century transportation system to serve the entire population and all of our nation. It will support us in our mission at FHWA to continually improve the quality of our nation's highway system and its intermodal connectors. We plan to fulfill our mission through the National Quality Initiative, which will promote smoothness and safety and will reduce congestion.

FHWA's 10­year strategic plan issued earlier this year has five goals to support our vision and our mission. They are safety, mobility, productivity, protecting our natural environment, and national security.

Safety is our top priority. Despite the stable death rate per miles traveled on our highways, more travel has meant an almost 8­percent rise in total deaths since 1992. This is unacceptable. Our strategic plan sets national goals of reducing the number of deaths on our highways by 20 percent over the next 10 years and increasing seat­belt use to 90 percent.

TEA­21 gives us tools for improved safety through improved driver behavior; planning, design, and construction; and technology. The bill has $1 billion in new incentives for states to adopt the .08 blood­alcohol level and to increase seat­belt use. It has provisions about open containers of alcoholic beverages and about repeat offenders. It has increased funding to eliminate high­speed rail grade crossings along with continued set­asides for elimination of rail grade crossings and hazards. It integrates safety into the transportation planning process. There is funding to encourage the development and implementation of global positioning systems (GPS), adaptative ("smart") cruise control, and viewer enhancements.

There are rising concerns about aggressive driving on our roads. Better planning, design and construction, and implementation of technological advances will help reduce some of the rage that many motorists feel.

Mobility is our second goal. We want to preserve, improve, and expand the highway transportation system and intermodal connections to increase mobility and access for all Americans. Our goal is to reduce delays on federal­aid highways by 20 percent in 10 years. TEA­21 supports this goal with its record level of investment.

TEA­21 maintains the important flexibility features of ISTEA and its commitment to a balanced transportation system.

There are expanded core highway programs with $28.6 billion for the National Highway System (NHS), $23.8 billion for interstate maintenance, $33.3 billion for the Surface Transportation Program (STP), $20.4 billion for bridges, $8.1 billion for the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, and $4.1 billion for the construction and maintenance of highways on federal lands.

There is a new streamlined environmental review process and authority for new, innovative contracting procedures, such as design/build, that will expedite projects. There is a process to begin using life­cycle costs.

TEA­21 includes authorization to add intermodal connectors to NHS. We will be improving access to airports, seaports, freight terminals, rail yards, bus terminals, and other facilities.

Our third goal is productivity. We intend to promote more economic efficiency through an overall 20­percent reduction in delays and 25­percent lower life­cycle costs for highways in 10 years.

TEA­21 includes a program for the deployment of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). The act makes ITS infrastructure eligible for NHS and STP funds. There is also a program to deploy automatic vehicle identification technology to help move traffic.

There is a new $700 million corridor and border infrastructure program, which we proposed, to help move freight and vehicles within North America and across our borders. There is a new value pricing program to support congestion management initiatives.

Our fourth goal is protecting the environment and communities affected by highway transportation. We can reduce mobile­source emissions by 20 percent and increase wetlands resulting from federal­aid highway projects by 50 percent in 10 years.

TEA­21 has a broad range of environmental protection programs. The CMAQ program is continued with increased funding, and the transportation enhancement set­aside of STP that funds bicycle and pedestrian facilities is expanded.

There is also a new scenic byways program for All­American roads. Natural habitat mitigation is made eligible for NHS and STP funds. Storm­water retrofit and sidewalk modifications to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act are now eligible for STP funds. Funding is designated for research into alternative fuel vehicles.

Our fifth goal is national security ­ improving the nation's national defense mobility. TEA­21 has a record level of investment to improve the capacity and operation of the highway system to support mobilization. With this level of investment, we can improve bridges to take the heavy loads and have adequate underpass clearance on roads that provide access to and from key military installations. We will focus on connectors to forts and bases and to deployment ports.

For all of these goals, TEA­21 provides the foundation for the "enablers" ­ the technologies and information systems that improve the operations of the system.

We will leverage technologies, such as high­performance concrete, SuperpaveÔ, stone mastic asphalt, composites, and Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) products.

We will use ITS to improve the management and operations of our highways ­ advances such as GPS for asset management and video for real­time traveler information, the Commercial Vehicle ITS Infrastructure (CVISN), and automated log books.

Information permits better decisions. We must rapidly move information in order to more efficiently move passengers and freight across borders and through customs using electronic commerce. We must become information­dominated.

In contracting, we must find ways to deliver projects faster ­ through design­build, lane rental, A+B contracting, incentives, use of best value, and contractor warranties.

We have moved from the ISTEA era to the TEA­21 era. The TEA­21 era must be a partnership between FHWA and the states. We must join together on a quality journey. It is important to have leadership that creates and sustains core values ­ service, teamwork, diversity, and professionalism ­ to develop knowledge­based organizations.

The strategic plan sets our direction. I urge state transportation agencies and metropolitan planning organizations to coordinate and harmonize their performance plans with our strategic plan.

At FHWA, we will have a customer and partner focus with more and better cooperation with state and local agencies, industry, academia, law enforcement, and interest groups. We are actively seeking customer input through listening sessions, focus groups, and surveys.

We will have a human resources development and management focus. We will empower the division administrators. We will emphasize competency, and we will develop a broad array of skills ­ electrical engineers, systems engineers, information management systems, marketing, and financial.

All transportation systems ­ federal, state, and local ­ must emphasize information and analysis. At all levels, we must improve our current information systems to keep pace with the state of the art. We must build expert systems and other knowledge­based systems.

In process management, our partners on the state and local level must work with us to reengineer the project­delivery process. Together, we must improve design and management, the environmental approval process, and project approval and delivery.

Our business results will be how our customers can measure what we do. They will look at customer service, financial and program performance, service delivery, and human resource performance. Our partners must ask themselves these questions:

We are engaged in a quality journey. It is not a destination, and it will take time. We need state and local agencies to help us reach our goals. Please maintain a consistent theme and focus on improving our transportation system.

Above all, remember we are creating, developing, and improving a transportation system for America in the 21st century. In all your actions and your decision­making, always ask, "What kind of transportation system do we want in the 21st century?"

At FHWA, we want to help create the best transportation system in the world for our great country. We need to work together to achieve this vision.

Kenneth R. Wykle is the federal highway administrator. He has served as the chief of the Federal Highway Administration since Nov. 10, 1997. From 1995 to 1997, he was vice president for defense transportation for Science Applications International Corp. Wykle is a retired Army lieutenant general.



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