Opening Keynote Address: Session Summary

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 by Kate Humphrey

This session at the 2012 National Rural Transportation Conference began with welcome statements from Russ Cowley, NADO President and Executive Director of the Six County Association of Governments; Misty Casto, Development District Association of Appalachia Secretary and Executive Director of the Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District; and Michele Boomhower, Assistant/MPO Director of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission. These remarks were followed by the opening keynote address by Federal Highway Administration Deputy Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau. Read a detailed summary below, or click here to see the video.

Nadeau began by speaking about the current political climate that impacts the U.S. transportation system. Despite the fact that our aging transportation infrastructure needs repair and there are many people who need jobs, budget constraints and partisanship have prevented these goals from being met. Nadeau emphasized the need for a bipartisan surface transportation bill, saying “there are no Democratic roads or Republican bridges.” Such a bill would offer the certainty and predictability necessary to make long range plans and invest in infrastructure.

Nadeau praised President Obama for his efforts in integrating transportation investment and the economic recovery. According to Nadeau, more than any other president, Obama has “elevated rebuilding America’s infrastructure to a top White House priority,” connecting job creating today with building the transportation system of tomorrow. He has increased funding that supports “an America that’s built to last,” with more affordable, efficient, and sustainable transportation choices. Nadeau believes that this framework gives reason to be optimistic.

He then highlighted two elements of transportation investment, livability and freight. While livability may mean something different in urban and rural settings, it is an important concept that is equally applicable in both. It is a question of ensuring that communities have the transportation choices that best fit their needs.  TIGER grant support and the DOT’s partnership with the EPA and HUD both promote sustainability and livable communities. Another crucial role for transportation is the movement of goods and freight. Because of freight’s essential function in the economy, the U.S. must be prepared to continue investing to remain globally competitive.

What do to in the meantime? Nadeau introduced several FWHA initiatives designed to accelerate project delivery and get projects under construction faster. He spoke about “Every Day Counts,” which promotes direct and immediate results of transportation investment. The program seeks innovative ways to shorten project delivery, improve safety, and protect the environment.  Solutions that find better, faster, and smarter approaches to work can maximize transportation investment’s tangible direct impact on people’s lives. This includes exploring links between technology, safety, and the environment. The FWHA encourages state DOTs to adopt certain standards, for example moving from hot to warm mix asphalt, which is not as heavy, to reduce CO2 emissions and the industry’s impact on the environment.

The FHWA is looking ahead to the next round of Every Day Counts, including finalizing a list of new initiatives and preparing for summer training sessions. The Administration has built momentum and wants to keep it going to make innovation a permanent part of transportation culture to support project delivery, safety, and environmental initiatives. It is a model that has proven to be successful.

Nadeau concluded by discussing safety, the DOT’s top priority. He noted that traffic fatalities have fallen to historic lows and cited the role of proven strategies such as rumble strips in this progress. More recently, Secretary LaHood has raised awareness of districted driving and the dangers of using electronic devices behind the wheel, resulting in texting bans in 35 states and the District of Columbia.






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