U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on Wednesday renewed his call for passage of a robust, long-term federal transportation bill and urged state transportation officials to become more vocal on how local projects suffer without such a bill.
“Frankly, I would like to see more states telling Washington what they are not doing,” he said. “Sometimes we go out and make these calls to states to say, ‘What is going to happen if this highway bill doesn’t pass?’ and we hear crickets chirping.
“I would rather see states stepping up and saying, ‘This is what we can’t do, and we could do it if we had a federal bill,’” said Foxx, who was in Kansas City speaking at the Polsinelli Public Policy Up Close Speaker Series at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s boardroom at Union Station.
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Foxx said that in the coming years, tremendous growth in both population and freight will place a great demand on our existing transportation infrastructure. For regions such as Kansas City, community leaders and transportation officials need to be undertaking the land use and transportation planning needed to preserve the best quality of life and to ensure mobility.
“We have to look at this growth tsunami with a clear eye,” Foxx said. “We can’t look at it with our heads in the sands. It’s coming.”
The challenge is recognizing that substantial growth is coming and a lot more people will be using the same infrastructure that is in place today, he said. Communities need to build for it.
“It isn’t just throughput that you need,” Foxx said. “It is also how you manage those spaces and the land uses that are connected to that transportation.”
Foxx said he is encouraged that the U.S. Senate is moving toward a long-term bill that puts six years of policy in place with three years of funding. He said he hopes the U.S. House moves that direction also.
After his speech, Foxx met briefly with reporters and said one of his greatest frustrations as secretary is seeing the transportation infrastructure crumbling and congestion getting worse while there are fewer resources.
“Unfortunately, it has kind of become a game of prioritization right now,” Foxx said. “Many states are having to shelve some of the maintenance to focus on their higher-priority maintenance projects. This is just no place to be.”