At the Department of Transportation, we are working hard to help our recovering economy while we prepare our nation's infrastructure for the future. On Wednesday, I had the good fortune to speak about those twin challenges at a symposium--hosted by my alma mater, Bradley University--on the Future of Midwest Transportation.
It turns out that the transportation needs of the Midwest look a lot like those across the country: an efficient and sustainable network to move products like wheat and soy from growers to markets or from factories to consumers. The people of the Midwest--like those elsewhere--need options to get to and from work or the grocery store or a medical center.
Everyone seems to agree that the infrastructure we have struggles to meet our current needs and cannot meet the future demand we anticipate. If you look at the Midwest and across America, you will see roads that are overburdened, bridges that have deteriorated, transit systems that need to be upgraded.
When you're stuck in traffic trying to get to work with no viable public transit option, you want to see those shortcomings addressed immediately--if not sooner. It's frustrating.
And, if you're unemployed, you're also frustrated, but what you want above all is a good job.
So, on the one hand we have jobs that need to be done: revitalizing our transportation infrastructure for the 21st century. And on the other hand, we have people who need jobs.
Well, in the Midwest and across America, the Obama Administration has been matching the people who need jobs with the jobs that need doing. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we have more than 14,000 transportation projects currently under way. We're repairing tens of thousands of miles of roadways, runways, railways, and transitways, and--more importantly--employing tens of thousands of Americans.
Where we can, we're leveraging region-specific resources. For the Midwest, that means making more effective use of the Great Lakes and the many rivers flowing into America's central north-south artery, the Mississippi River. Through our TIGER grants and our Marine Highways Program, we're doing just that.
Then there's high-speed rail. Businesses and residents in the Midwest are looking forward to the opportunity to zip from Detroit to Chicago or Chicago to St. Louis with fast downtown-to-downtown travel times. And they're looking forward to the economic development and job opportunities high-speed rail will bring to their cities and to the towns along the way.
Air travel must also remain viable, particularly for longer distances. And the skies over the Midwest's airports are as congested as they are in other regions. That's why we're committed to reducing travel times and delays with the next generation air-traffic control system.
The challenge of reliability. The challenge of efficiency. The challenge of sustainability. These are not Midwestern challenges. They are not Republican or Democratic challenges. They are American challenges.
And this DOT will help America meet those challenges by continuing to support good jobs today while we help build the transportation infrastructure of tomorrow.