Addressing attendees of the 93rd annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx outlined his top priorities for the department through the year.
Foxx, speaking during the meeting's Chairman's Luncheon, said that USDOT must first and foremost concentrate on funding, as the current surface transportation bill, MAP-21, is set to expire at the end of September. He said that it is important that the public knows what will happen once that funding runs out.
"Starting today, we're going to post on our website exactly how much money the Highway Trust Fund has left, and update that number every month until the fund runs out, or until it can sustain itself," Foxx said (see related AASHTO Journal story here). "This is a number we share with Congress. But the American people need to know it too, because they are the ones who use America's transportation system—and they are the ones who will travel slower and less safely if it isn't funded."
Another USDOT priority for 2014 will be finding additional efficiencies to save money and time on projects, but also to entice other investors.
"We're going to do even more to find efficiencies—implementing performance measures that reward projects completed under budget and ahead of schedule—and remaking our permitting process so that, in the vast majority of cases, it takes days or weeks instead of months and years," Foxx said. "And there's one more thing about being more efficient—reducing costs, increasing predictability in the system. When we do that, we automatically create a better ecosystem for public-private partnerships in transportation."
Foxx then spoke of the need to create a national vision for transportation, as he said it was vital to get support from the public on an integrated transportation plan.
"If we're going to build a better system, we're going to have to tell the story of what our nation can achieve, of how we can maintain our place as the country with the most reliable, efficient transportation system in the world," he said. "And, to do so, we all have to use the facts and shape an integrated strategy for where we're headed, not just where we've been... Transportation shouldn't just get us places better—it should make places better, and lives too."
The final major priority, as it has been for USDOT in recent years, is safety.
"Try as we might, accidents and tragedies continue to occur. And other than the families affected, no one feels the hurt of those tragedies as much as our team does at USDOT. And we feel an urgency to prevent them from happening again, too," Foxx said. "That said, I'm proud that when you look at all the data, this is the safest time to travel in the history of traveling. As Secretary, I'm committed to keeping up that standard."
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director Bud Wright expressed his desire to work with Foxx on those priorities.
"We agree that our national transportation priorities include the need for sustainable transportation funding, even more innovations in project and program delivery, and a national transportation plan," Wright said. "We look forward to working with Secretary Foxx and all of USDOT to ensure our nation's transportation system continues to support a dynamic economy and a high quality of life for all."
The full text of Foxx's remarks is available here.