Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx chaired a “virtual” town hall meeting, entitled “Moving from Uncertainty to Long-Term Transportation Investment,” on August 6, 2014. The town hall was open to the general public, as well as business leaders, transportation advocates, and state and local government officials. Secretary Foxx discussed the United States Department of Transportation’s (“US DOT”) vision for the future of transportation, as well as answered questions from attendees about transportation policy.
In his opening remarks, and throughout the question and answer session, Secretary Foxx stressed the importance of a long-term fix for transportation funding and policy, calling for a renewal of the current surface transportation authorization by the end of 2014. As the Secretary pointed out, the United States is in a transportation crisis that has only been temporarily mitigated by the short-term extension passed last week by Congress. The Secretary stressed that we “can’t afford to sit on our hands” and wait until May 2015 to pass a new long-term transportation bill, reminding viewers that when the 113th Congress is adjourned, all pending legislation will expire. Thus, waiting for the next Congressional term to re-focus on long-term transportation will mean waiting for the new Congress to become oriented and start transportation discussions anew.
In addition, Secretary Foxx shared some of the US DOT’s priorities for the next long-term transportation authorization, including:
- Ensuring that the Highway Trust Fund (“HTF”) is stabilized so projects can be planned and built.
- Investing in freight movement (highways, rails, and ports), thereby increasing manufacturing and getting more Americans back to work.
- Speeding up projects through streamlining efforts.
- Creating more opportunities for private-sector investment in transportation infrastructure.
The Secretary also emphasized the importance of multi-modalism and multi-state connectivity in the nation’s transportation system, specifically speaking to inter-modal and inter-state connections and how those connections will improve freight movement. Further, the Secretary referred to the lack of a stable funding source for passenger rail, stating that options give commuters the ability to make a choice in transportation modes, making travel times more predictable.
Secretary Foxx went on to encourage the public, and state and local leaders, to continue to speak out about transportation challenges in their communities, especially to their Congressional representation. The Secretary maintained that there is an inherent lack of understanding of the effects of either short-term transportation extensions or short-term transportation authorizations that have occurred over the decade, preventing state and local governments from planning and delivering transportation projects with certainty that the federal government will be a partner.