This morning, I want to take the opportunity to thank the many DOT professionals who have been on panels, delivered talks and papers, and worked with thousands of transportation stakeholders this week at the 2013 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting.
Yesterday's panel discussion of MAP-21, the new surface transportation law, is one example of DOT leaders sharing their expertise with the transportation community.
The MAP-21 panel, led by our newly sworn-in Undersecretary for Policy, Polly Trottenberg, drew a packed house. It's clear that the transportation community understands that MAP-21 signals a new era for all of us, and the panelists--Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget Sylvia Garcia, and NHTSA Senior Associate Administrator Brian McLaughlin--did a great job explaining the changes this era brings.
And there is plenty of good news to share.
First, on the safety front, MAP-21 gives the FTA long-awaited oversight authority for transit safety. As Administrator Rogoff said, "For years, we asked for the ability to protect America's transit riders and give them the confidence a national set of safety standards would mean. And now that Congress has given it to us, we will absolutely live up to this responsibility."
Also in safety, Associate Administrator McLaughlin talked about the grants MAP-21 makes available to NHTSA to support efforts to end distracted driving. This new program makes available approximately $17.5 million in fiscal year 2013 to states that have laws banning distracted driving. Congress has also authorized an additional $5 million for NHTSA to develop paid advertising to support state enforcement of laws against distracted driving.
To support infrastructure efforts and job creation, MAP-21 offers a significant boost to our TIFIA financing and credit assistance program. The $1.75 billion Congress has made available for TIFIA can lead to $17 billion in loans for needed transportation projects around the country. And those loans can then lead to billions more in private sector and other investments.
Another way that MAP-21 supports DOT's efforts to build and renew transportation infrastructure is by streamlining project delivery. MAP-21 incorporates many of the ideas championed by Administrator Mendez in the FHWA's successful Every Day Counts initiative. Moving projects from concept to completion more efficiently allows the public to enjoy the benefits of upgraded infrastructure more quickly.
As Administrator Mendez told the TRB audience, "When I first came to this job, everyone wanted to know why it takes so long to build a project and how we could fix that. So that has been a goal for us at FHWA since day one, and we're happy to see MAP-21 include language about streamlining project delivery. It's really a vote of confidence for what we've been doing for the last few years."
Are there challenges in MAP-21? Yes, but they are good challenges that, once solved, will help transportation stakeholders from coast to coast. Right now, for example, we're hard at work developing the safety standards and performance measures MAP-21 requires, and the transportation community will be better for it.
So, that's the lay of the land from TRB 2013. Many thanks to everyone at DOT for their hard work at TRB this week. Thanks to everyone who traveled to Washington, DC, for the Annual Meeting. And, most of all, thanks to the Transportation Research Board for hosting this annual high point of the transportation community's calendar.