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DOT Secretary nominee Foxx lays out key focus areas at hearing

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
May 23, 2013

At yesterday’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the recently announced nomination of Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Anthony Foxx to be Secretary of Transportation, the nominee laid out some key components of his agenda if he is confirmed.

Foxx told Committee members he plans to focus on three key areas:
-ensuring the U.S. transportation system is the safest in the world as it was for current Secretary Ray LaHood;
-improving the efficiency and performance of the country’s existing transportation system through better use of technology, data, economic analysis, and private sector innovation, such as public-private partnerships, to bring more private sector capital and innovation into the infrastructure market; and
-build the country’s infrastructure to meet the needs of the next generation of Americans

“The private sector cannot do this alone, and the federal government has a responsibility to help ensure our global competitiveness, by investing in a robust, multimodal transportation system, a stronger national freight network, and key innovations like NextGen and advanced roadway and rail technology,” Foxx said in prepared remarks addressing U.S. infrastructure needs. “As a Mayor who has delivered projects to my constituents, I know too well that future uncertainty at the Federal level makes it difficult to do smart cost-effective long-term planning and project development.”

When Obama selected Foxx, he stated that since Foxx took office as Mayor of Charlotte in 2009, he has helped to turn around the city at a time when both the city and the country were going through very challenging economic times.

“The economy is growing. There are more jobs, more opportunity,” he said. “And if you ask Anthony how that happened, he’ll tell you that one of the reasons is that Charlotte made one of the largest investments in transportation in the city’s history.”

Prior to the nomination of Foxx being made official, a White House official was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that “[a]s mayor of one of America’s most vibrant cities, Anthony Foxx knows firsthand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy.”

As Mayor of Charlotte, the report noted that Foxx has been very active on the transportation front for both passenger and freight modes.

One of his major efforts, according to the Post, was the Charlotte Streetcar Project, an electric trolley system, as well as the expansion of its LYNX light-rail system. And on the freight transportation side, the report noted that Charlotte, under Foxx’ watch, developed a 200-acre facility in conjunction with Class I railroad carrier Norfolk Southern connecting freight from Charlotte to global ports and the city also added a third parallel runway at the Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.

Foxx was elected as Mayor of Charlotte in 2009 and re-elected in 2011, said the report.

A noted transportation infrastructure expert told LM that Foxx appears to be the right man for the job.

“I don’t know him directly, but I am impressed by his commitment to the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility and the fact that he seems to appreciate the importance of addressing freight needs,” said Leslie Blakey, executive director of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. “The Charlotte project is a truly innovative approach, interconnecting rail, road and air to increase freight mobility.”

Should this move become official, it stands to reason Foxx will have a full plate as DOT Secretary. He will have to work with Congress in crafting a long-term transportation bill and faces other challenges regarding government regulations impacting motor carrier operations like HOS and CSA and on the railroads, too, regarding Positive Train Control, among others.

In his opening remarks at the hearing, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller made it clear that, if nominated, Foxx will be facing more than a few potholes on his road to the DOT.

“The Department of Transportation is enduring a tumultuous time of constrained resources,” said Rockefeller. “Despite this, the Department is tasked with implementing a large number of new safety mandates and, simultaneously, presiding over a transportation infrastructure network in need of significant and immediate investment.  This country’s transportation network has been a critical factor in our long-term economic growth.  However, years of under-investing in our roads; airports and air traffic control systems; rails; and ports have left us with an overstrained transportation system.  The weakness in our transportation system has been a drag on our growth.  I believe we are on the brink of losing our competitive edge in the global marketplace as a result.  The evidence is clear that this interconnected system was not built to withstand the wear and tear it endures today.” 

Rockefeller added that the U.S. needs to take a hard look at what it needs from its ports, rail, air and highway systems over the long term and commit to making the appropriate investments.

“We must get away from overly siloed, programmatic funding mechanisms that don’t allow for the flexibility necessary to make strategic, multi-modal investments,” he said.  “We need to get smart about working with the private sector to increase overall funding.  In short, we need to rethink how we fund transportation in this country as we look toward the future.  We all need to come together – the Congress, the White House, and the stakeholder community – and truly explore all options.  We won’t get anywhere unless we work together.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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