This morning I addressed the Freight Transportation Policy Forum of the National Industrial Transportation League. I was grateful to have this opportunity to talk about moving America's goods from farm and factory to store shelves.
It may seem that DOT spends a lot of energy on moving passengers. Between blogs on high-speed rail, speeches on distracted driving, rules on aviation consumer protections, grants to transit agencies, and rallies for bike and pedestrian policy, it's pretty clear that I'm excited about improving how Americans get from point A to point B.
But I want to remind you that every step we take to improve mobility for people also improves mobility for the supplies and goods we want and need:
- Making it easier for people to take public transportation, or ride bikes also reduces costly congestion on the highways our truck drivers use;
- Reducing driver distraction makes those highways safer for freight; and
- Improving miles of track in advance of a high-speed rail network also smooths the way for more efficient rail shipping.
And that's without even mentioning the steps the Obama Administration is taking specifically to move freight more safely, effectively and sustainably. For example, of $1.5 billion in TIGER discretionary funds, more than half--$765 million--went to projects that benefit freight:
- Developing a marine highway system in northern and central California to ease truck congestion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- Upgrading port facilities in Portland, Searsport, and Eastport, Maine, enabling US businesses to move wind turbines and other green freight while creating jobs and improving the local economy;
- Improving Chicago’s regional rail infrastructure through an innovative public-private partnership to break through the bottleneck that adversely impacts a quarter of all US rail traffic.
These projects represent a significant change from old freight funding patterns that have focused on highways.
Now, we have TIGER II, our $600 million national infrastructure investment program. These funds will help us green-light even more high-priority road, rail, transit, aviation, and maritime projects. Projects that will create good jobs while helping upgrade our freight transportation networks.
And, in the budget we submitted to Congress, this Administration proposed a National Infrastructure Innovation and Finance Fund. This fund--for which freight projects will be strong competitors--will support multimodal efforts that involve multiple jurisdictions and promise substantial economic benefits.
The point is this: In 506 days, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to make shipping America's goods safer, faster, and cleaner than ever; and we have no intention of stopping now.
These investments do not favor one mode of transportation over another. They strike a new balance that maximizes the efficiency of freight transportation through whatever means are best for a given region, whether that means trucking, railroads, ships, or barges.
We’re focused on good outcomes for freight shipping--like reducing congestion, improving safety, and mitigating climate change--and investing in the projects that achieve those outcomes.
This strategy is good for shippers and good for the American people.