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U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx visits NCSU

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx visits NCSU

United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx speaking to the ITRE at NC State University
United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx speaking to the ITRE at NC State University


United States Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited the NC State Centennial Campus on February 19 as part of his “Grow America Bus Tour” of the southeast region. The event, organized by ITRE, attracted more than 150 people to hear Secretary Foxx speak on the long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill he is proposing to Congress. The “Grow America Act” bill, said Foxx, would create “stability and certainty” in transportation infrastructure funding streams moving forward.

NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson opened the event and highlighted ITRE’s ongoing research and education efforts, stating that ITRE serves as the “go-to resource for economic impact studies of transportation infrastructure in North Carolina.”

NC Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Tata introduced and exclaimed that it is quite fitting for Secretary Foxx to be speaking on this issue now, when funding for transportation infrastructure in North Carolina is a critical issue in Governor Pat McCrory’s twenty-five year plan. Tata also complimented NC State and ITRE for the excellent research and technical assistance support they have and continue to provide to NCDOT.

Secretary Foxx first spoke of problems with the present transportation system, which included a lack of care in infrastructure maintenance, lack of investment in capacity that is sorely needed, and the inability to capture new innovations that could be of help. Foxx stressed the need for more creativity among our nation’s civil engineers, including those present in the room, stating that future innovations were necessary to improve the system’s performance.

Foxx next explained the various characteristics of the Grow America Act, calling it a “bold 21st century vision for infrastructure in America.” The Act’s principal feature is its greater investment in infrastructure of $478 billion dollars, which would significantly increase the Highway Trust Fund. The second facet of the bill includes changing permitting processes to accelerate project turnover.  The bill’s third characteristic involves creating new programs and encouraging states to work together to better relieve issues such as freight bottlenecks. The bill also recognizes opportunities for public/private partnerships in infrastructure. Concluding his remarks, Foxx affirmed that the Grow America Act “will drastically improve the state of infrastructure moving forward.”

An audience Q&A session with the Secretary followed his remarks. Attendees asked several pertinent questions addressing, for example, how the reauthorization bill would deal with the needs of rural America, how or if it would work with other types of funding besides the Highway Trust fund, and whether the USDOT would partner with other agencies to help with issues such as health benefits. Kyle Snyder, director of the ITRE NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) program, inquired about how NextGen technologies being explored by NGAT, such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), would come together to support multimodal work for infrastructure. Foxx responded that airspace gets just as congested as much as surface transportation, and that “NextGen technology will provide us with an opportunity to de-clog the system while maintaining or even improving safety.” With the latter in mind, Secretary Foxx stressed that local involvement and support for the Grow America Act bill would ultimately help at the national level.

ITRE director Dr. Nagui Rouphail concluded the event by thanking the speakers and attendees, and presented Secretary Foxx and Secretary Tata with NC State mementos as a token of the university appreciation for their visit.

March 31, 2015

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