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Foxx: Transportation Needs a 'Reset'

Even if Congress passes a bill to fund the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) through May 2015 (which was uncertain), DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx called the legislation a “short-term patch” that isn’t necessarily a cause for celebration.
He made these remarks July 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

“It’s hard to imagine that Congress will not push the snooze button on this issue when it’s crunch time again,” Foxx said. “Come May, if we’re not careful, we will be right here again, with the shot clock set to expire, looking for an easy solution to patch us for a few months, leaving the real conversation for another time.”

He added that the nation’s transportation network is suffering from “chronic underinvestment, an old project delivery system that makes projects more expensive and time-consuming than necessary, and a set of policies that are more Model-T than Tesla. . . . America needs more than incremental adjustment; we need a big reset in transportation.”

He added that DOT is planning a 30-year “transportation vision,” which it will complete in the coming months, outlining trends and choices.

As for the current state of transportation, he pointed to three underlying issues.

First, underinvestment “feels normal,” Foxx said because it is long-standing. “Every year, the cost of catching up grows more and more out of reach. . . . We have a big problem that’s been treated like a little problem.”

Second, short-term funding measures slow progress, and Congress is “starving the system and effectively telling the country, ‘We’re not really going to fix this’.”

Third, the atmosphere in Washington “is making the impractical seem practical, and the practical seem impractical. Wrong looks right and right looks wrong.”

Foxx said that the Obama administration’s GROW AMERICA Act can stabilize the HTF, increase investment in infrastructure, fund critical repairs, streamline the federal processes and incentivize states to speed up projects, and support Buy America and local jobs.

In addition, Foxx said DOT plans to convene leaders from all 50 states, including governors and others to “make the case for ending the gridlock on this issue. . . . The American people need the facts. They know something’s wrong. They are stuck in traffic. They have been patiently awaiting the new bypass or bridge project or new passenger rail station. But they can’t put their finger on who to hold accountable. . . . We need a moment of clarity and political courage, and that will not happen without the American people knowing the facts and raising their voices.”

See “Commentary” in this issue for an open letter to Congress signed by Foxx and 11 other DOT secretaries.

DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx at the National Press Club with APTA President & CEO Michael Melaniphy and APTA Chair Peter Varga, chief executive officer, The Rapid, Grand Rapids, MI.

Photo courtesy of Noel St. John

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