Last weekend, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) met in Traverse City, Michigan, and Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez was there to update them on a number of issues.
From safety to signs to the all-important reauthorization debate currently underway in the US Congress, Administrator Mendez covered all of the bases.
First, let me thank Administrator Mendez for his deep commitment to safety. Administrator Mendez understands as thoroughly as anyone at DOT that safety is our number one priority. And whenever he speaks publicly, he never fails to mention the importance of safe driving.
Sunday's remarks also included a discussion of recent changes to the regulations governing roadway signs, known in the highway field as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD. To the delight of many AASHTO members and communities across the country, the FHWA recently eliminated 46 different deadlines for replacing traffic signs. State and local officials made it very clear that the best use of taxpayer dollars is to update these signs to the new standards when existing traffic signs wear out.
This is how we work at DOT. We listen. And as long as good safety and good stewardship are assured, we do our best to give states, counties, and municipalities the flexibility they need to do their jobs.
But we will not compromise on safety. As Administrator Mendez told AASHTO members, we did retain 12 deadlines for sign upgrades that are critical to public safety, for example STOP and YIELD signs at railroad crossings where there are no automatic gates or flashing lights.
Project completion is another area where the Federal Highway Administration is counting on ideas from America's states, counties, and municipalities. As we evaluate additional innovations for the Every Day Counts initiative, the FHWA has involved AASHTO members at every stage.
Every Day Counts helps speed project delivery so taxpayers can get the benefits of roadway improvements more quickly through a menu of initiatives and technologies like a design-build approach and pre-fabricated bridge elements. As Administrator Mendez said, we want that menu to be large enough to allow real choice and flexibility, but small enough that only the options with a realistic probability for success make the list.
Finally, Administrator Mendez spoke about the long-term transportation plan being debated right now in Congress. And perhaps no group understands the importance of this plan's passage into law better than AASHTO. We have bounced from extension to extension nine different times in nearly three years. And--as any transportation professional will tell you--that's no way to run a complicated system responsible for moving trillions of dollars in freight and hundreds of millions of people safely and efficiently. We need Congress to act and pass a long-term bill.
That's a pretty good range of topics for one set of remarks, and that's one reason FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez has been such a valuable asset on our leadership team.