Transportation secretary discusses future with UI students

By Shanon Quinn, Moscow-Pullman Daily News

The nation has to change the way it approaches funding transportation infrastructure, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told a group of students Wednesday (Oct. 1) during a town hall at the University of Idaho.

Foxx discussed future transportation policy as well as spotlighted President Barack Obama's GROW AMERICA plan.

Participants in the discussion included a group of students and faculty from diverse disciplines, all belonging to the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology.

Foxx said the institute at the UI has a long, distinguished history with the Department of Transportation by virtue of the work done on the campus and in Moscow, and he said many of the advancements made locally will be important in bringing transportation technology into the 21st century.

"The transportation system as we know it has many disruptiveness forces that are conspiring," he said.

Foxx said as vehicles are becoming more efficient, the gas tax - which is used to fund the DOT – is not bringing in enough revenue, leaving the department's Highway Trust Fund short about $15 billion annually.

"It's a great thing for the environment, it's a good thing for consumers and it's a good thing for the Earth," he said. "But there's also a challenge."

Since the birth of the department it has relied on the people driving the highways it creates in order to fund the system, Foxx said. Now the efficiency of the system is leading to financial losses.

"Congress has been patching it together for the last several years," he said.

But that needs to change, Foxx said.

"We need a reset in this country because we're growing so quickly, technology is moving so fast and revenues are going down so much," he said.

That's where GROW AMERICA comes in.

GROW AMERICA - Generating Renewal, Opportunity and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America - is a multiyear bill created by a team at the Department of Transportation that aims to address Highway Trust Fund shortfalls and provide $87 billion toward repair and replacement of the nation's deficient bridges and aging transit systems, according to the department's website.

Foxx said the future of transportation will face challenges not only in increasingly efficient vehicles, but also those coming with the impending use of fully automated cars and commercial space travel.

There will always be consequences for technology, Foxx said.

"Some good, and some we have to make good," he said.

Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News

(Pictured Above: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, center, tries out the driver’s seat in a hybrid-electric formula car while talking with University of Idaho engineering students Oct. 1 at the Idaho Commons in Moscow.)

Published 10-10-14