ROADS/BRIDGES: U.S. DOT chief wants to spend less, and build more

Foxx looks to continue Every Day Counts initiative and other cost-saving best practices

January 15, 2014

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx outlined his top priorities for the Department of Transportation on Jan. 15, highlighting America’s infrastructure deficit and identifying ways for the Department to use innovation and improved planning to stretch transportation dollars as effectively and efficiently as possible. Foxx also discussed his vision for multimodal transportation providing greater economic “ladders of opportunity” to all Americans and reiterated the Department’s commitment to safety. 

“If we’re going to tackle our backlog of repairing and rebuilding, then there’s another part of the equation we have to tackle, too – and that’s cost,” Secretary Foxx said.  “But what if we could make that funding equal more projects – and better ones? “ 

With the Highway Trust Fund set to run out of money as early as August, Foxx announced the U.S. DOT will begin posting monthly on its website exactly how much money the Highway Trust Fund has left, and update that number every month until the fund can sustain itself or until it runs out. While the U.S. DOT has long provided this figure to Capitol Hill, Foxx said providing it to the public would increase transparency and accountability.  

In a speech before the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Foxx touted the Department’s Every Day Counts initiative and other cost-saving best practices as examples of how transportation dollars could be spent more effectively, citing a study from McKinsey & Co. that found nations can “obtain the same amount of infrastructure for 40% less” just by adopting best practices. He also encouraged representatives from various modes of transportation to work together in a reflection of how travelers use the system, rather than acting as individual silos, proposing the first national transportation plan in more than 70 years. 

“We need a plan that takes our roads and rails and ports and links them together,” said Foxx. “Linking them together remakes the finest, most elaborate system of transportation that the world has ever known into its 21stcentury incarnation.” 

The vision outlined by Foxx builds on significant progress the Department has made under the Obama administration. The Department has constructed or improved 6,500 miles of rail corridors, and under the Recovery Act helped improve nearly 42,000 miles of roads, over 2,700 bridges, and helped purchase or rehabilitate over 12,220 transit vehicles. Additionally, the U.S. DOT has implemented an across-the-board effort to streamline its approval process and cut government red tape. The Department has expedited the review and permitting of 50 major projects, including bridges, transit projects, railways, waterways, roads, and renewable energy. In just one example, federal agencies recently approved the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project in New York, saving up to three years on the timeline of a multibillion project that will help put Americans back to work.