Proposed Remarks Acting Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson American Council of Engineering Companies – National Convention
Marriott Wardman Park Hotel – Marriott Ballroom
[off introduction by ACEC CEO Dave Raymond]
Thank you! It is SO great to be here with you all! Happy Monday!
I want to give a quick shout out to Arizona’s Executive Director Janice Burnett. I attended Arizona’s conference last month, and learned this is Janice’s last year with the ACEC family. She has been indispensable to the engineering community. As any engineer will tell you, she leaves big work boots to fill.
And a big hello and welcome to the Indiana chapter – is Beth Bauer here? It’s always good to see a familiar face. Beth and I worked together for many years while I was at the Indiana DOT. And she brought a whole bunch of Hoosiers with her.
It’s great to have you all here. Us Hoosiers like to stick together. I took office last summer, but it feels like YEARS. We have been VERY busy.
Most recently, we provided more than ONE-BILLION-DOLLARS in Emergency Relief payments to states.
We developed and deployed an app for emergency responders to use when assessing damage after disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Our Mobile Solution for Assessment and Reporting – also known as the M-SAR – will make it much easier, and faster, for states to accurately assess damages – so Emergency Relief can more quickly get to them.
We published a paper last year to promote the use of 3-D model-based information management systems. This is one of many new ways we can improve the use of alternative contracting methods for infrastructure projects. As you surely know, the use of 3-D models leads to cost savings, efficiencies, and low risk in construction.
We are also nearly done with an effort to help small consulting businesses deal with the challenges of entering the consulting world. We are making it possible for states to allow new consultants to use state-determined, indirect cost-rates until they have enough experience to create a baseline for setting one.
That should be good news to most, if not, all of your new members. We can’t wait to get that finalized.
We are looking at e-Bidding for our federal lands projects… which is already a regular practice on our federal-aid projects… we know this will help to cut project delivery times and costs.
This June, we plan to publish a final rule to update our NEPA regulation. This update puts in place streamlining practices that will help us get projects through NEPA faster and ultimately help them finish faster.
And we are planning a series of national “listening sessions” on automated vehicle technology.
The amount of interest in automated driving systems is incredible… and given the safety implications associated with them, it’s important to talk it through with the public, and especially with stakeholders like you, to make sure we are covering all the bases.
Our “Every Day Counts” program continues to excite state transportation leaders. Last January, we accepted the latest round of ideas for the fifth round of EDC and we are working with AASHTO to finalize that list.
I should add that we are gearing up for a series of regional EDC summits this fall, and look forward to your input.
Earlier rounds of EDC have yielded very productive fruit. For example,
we are doing similarly interesting work with Automated Traffic Signal Performance Measures. This helps cities and states make better choices when it comes to traffic signal timing, and the periodic updates they need to keep pace with changing traffic volumes.
There are more than 300,000 traffic signals in the U.S. – most of which seem to be on my commute to work – but this new approach will generate significant savings for cities and states.
As we move into the world of performance-based planning, we are using Data-Driven Safety Analysis tools. These help states analyze crash and roadway data to predict the safety impacts of highway projects, and makes it easier for them to reduce severe roadway crashes.
e-Construction is sweeping the nation, turning creation, review, approval, distribution and storage of highway construction documents into a time-efficient and cost-effective paperless environment.
e-Construction has been highlighted in round 3 of EDC and the current one – round 4. As of last December, 42 states have begun to use this innovation and seven more will join them by the end of this year. This will save thousands of hours and millions of dollars each year.
It is faster, cheaper and better, which means it is more than just good government. It’s good business.
We will be updating our National Bridge Inspection Standards, to reduce the burdens on states and other bridge owners. By using a risk-based approach, some bridges will not have to be inspected every two years.
We can focus inspectors’ attention on the bridges in greatest need. This will be a labor-savor and a cost-saver, without compromising safety.
“Operational Right-Of-Way” is another area we are exploring, which will help to make more projects eligible for categorical exclusions – which we hope will bring more projects online faster.
Fiscal constraint is another area we are working to improve, so projects without identified funding can advance through NEPA more easily. That will make it easier for states to begin developing more projects than currently is possible.
“NEPA reevaluation” is another item we have focused on, to extend the current reevaluation time frame from 3 years to 5 years. We should have good news about that in June. We believe this will ease a burden on states who are currently forced to update documents whenever there is an unanticipated delay in funding or other factors.
Again, it has kept us all very busy… but it is awesome to see the progress being made – including the President’s infrastructure proposal, which is moving through Congress. I’ll discuss that more in a few minutes.
Before I moved to Washington, I had the honor of running the Indiana DOT. Working for the people of Indiana for so many years was great fun and a real privilege, and now having the opportunity to lead an organization of true professionals at the national level is a dream come true.
It is my belief—not only my belief, but my real-life experience in the field—that the best projects, the best results, are those achieved through great collaboration and cooperation among FHWA, state DOTs with our local, regional AND industry partners.
What an AMAZING time to be in transportation! How lucky are we to be doing what we do with so much transformative technology on the horizon?
We are very lucky that transportation is a huge part of the national dialogue? It is great to be part of an administration so committed to revitalizing our country’s critical infrastructure.
For the next few years, we will focus on these priorities:
- Improving SAFETY,
- improving INFRASTRUCTURE,
- preparing for the future through INNOVATION,
- and ACCOUNTABILITY through reducing regulatory and administrative burden.
How do we do it? How do we ensure our 20th century transportation system is ready to meet the needs of our 21st-century nation?
There is no arguing that more investment is needed. That is something everyone agrees on! But paying for it remains an ongoing challenge.
Plenty of ideas continue to be discussed. Bonds... tolls.. P3s… taxes… the Administration has an open mind. Financially speaking, everything is on the table. You’ll surely hear more about that from your next speakers.
The Infrastructure debate has only just begun. It is a big challenge and it will involve not only Congress and FHWA, but state legislatures and every state DOT as well.
As you know, the President’s new Infrastructure package leverages an additional $200 billion in Federal investment to generate more than a trillion dollars in infrastructure improvements nationwide.
This infusion of capital will help roads and bridges, large and small—from congested highways in cities like Tucson and Phoenix to less populated county roads and tribal lands.
It will specifically invest $50 billion to help infrastructure in rural America.
The plan will empower local decision making, reduce the burden of Federal red tape and improve the permitting process. You know as well as I do that some of our requirements, most required by law, add time and costs.
We think we can do better. From planning to budgets to design to environmental review to permitting to construction, several federal agencies make decisions and even more at the state and local level.
It is complex and time consuming – and extra time means extra cost. The President addresses this issue through his “One Federal Decision” executive order.
If you take all the federal agencies that have any part of a highway project and coordinate the work by giving one agency the lead role and shepherding it through the process, the goal is to reach a record of decision within two years from the published notice of intent.
We are working with our partner agencies to determine how best to operationalize this order and will be implementing it soon. This work is right in line with the priority of accountability that I mentioned earlier.
While strengthening infrastructure and coordinating efforts across the federal government, the proposal will create more opportunities for you and others in the transportation community.
From planners and designers to suppliers and construction workers, it will keep all of us busy!
It is an ambitious plan, but that is exactly what America needs. The President’s plan inspires us to dream big by building big.
New technologies are emerging faster than ever – and, as we know from the Uber accident in Arizona, or even the tragic collapse of the pedestrian bridge in Miami, we know there are risks.
We are doing everything we can to minimize those risks, and to keep the public safe… but we know that driverless cars, automated traffic control systems, drones, all have a place in our future.
It is up to us to get our aging transportation system ready for the demands of tomorrow.
We can’t address 21st-century challenges with 20th-century solutions. FHWA has two presenters on Thursday’s agenda who will discuss some of the innovation successes we’ve seen and new tools available.
Before I go, I want to thank all of you for what you do.
From engineers to road builders to planners and environmental specialists… the work you all do is important. It keeps the public safe, and strengthens America’s road system, the backbone of the world’s most powerful economy.
As many of you know, last week was National Work Zone Awareness Week. We spent a week working with our state DOT partners and others to remind the public that highway work zones are dangerous. Every year, hundreds of people die in work zones – and that is entirely unacceptable.
They are not just statistics to me. They are husbands, wives, sons and daughters… and, in my opinion, every life lost in a highway work zone is completely avoidable.
Also, about 80 percent of the victims in a work zone are people inside their cars. Driving too fast, not watching the road, texting and driving… there are any number of reasons why they crash into other vehicles, but all of them are preventable.
Last year, more than 37,000 people died on U.S. roads. We are actively trying to bring that number down, and highway work zones is our focus this month. As more and more people return to their jobs on highway projects that some of your members designed, we want to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Thank you for helping us keep them safe.
Above all, thanks for letting me spend some time with you. Improving America’s transportation system begins here, with us, in collaboration and partnership. I am very much looking forward to doing great things together.
Thank you very much – enjoy the rest of the conference!
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