Monday, July 4, 2016

POLITICO: ‘Waxing philosophical’ about DOT’s progress

‘WAXING PHILOSOPHICAL’ ABOUT DOT’S PROGRESS: This week marks the three-year anniversary of Anthony Foxx’s first day as transportation secretary, and the DOT head is getting pretty pensive, looking back on his tenure as he rounds out his last year in office. “I’m misty — tears coming through,” he joked with reporters on Wednesday.

A sorry state: When he assumed office on July 2, 2013, Foxx knew “there was some tough business ahead of us with sequestration budgets, with a threat of a shutdown, with much of our country still kind of flat-footed-to-leaning-backward in terms of our approach to infrastructure,” he said. Then just four days later — underscoring the magnitude of the safety issues DOT must address — 42 people died in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after a 74-car freight train carrying Bakken crude derailed there, Foxx recalls. “We obviously had major safety issues crop up. We are still dealing with some of them,” he said. “But even notwithstanding a lot of those very tough days, I think it’s fair to say that American infrastructure is back on the uptick.”

Driving forces: Foxx says these better days have hinged on FAST Act enactment last year and the creation in 2014 of the Build America Transportation Investment Center, which processed funding for about $8 billion worth of infrastructure projects that year and helped facilitate a total of $21 billion in investment. And then there’s NHTSA’s efforts to revamp the nation’s recall processes and the advent this year of the National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau intended to streamline the application process for DOT’s credit assistance programs, Foxx noted.

Upward movement: “Having been handed the hand we were dealt three years ago, … with an incredibly supportive president and an incredibly impressive predecessor, the overall context was tough,” he said. “But we’ve pierced through it. And I feel like the trajectory for American infrastructure is moving upwards, and that’s where we want it to be. So that’s me waxing a little — I don’t know if it’s philosophical, or perhaps just retrospective.”


About The AuthorJennifer Scholtes is a transportation security reporter for POLITICO Pro. She has covered Congress since 2007, previously writing about homeland security for CQ Roll Call. Before that, Jen was chief copy editor of the Paradise Post in northern California, as well as a reporter for MediaNews Group newspapers in that region. She is a graduate of Chico State’s journalism school and grew up in that same California college town, known for being home to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. A Victorian-architecture enthusiast and hoarder of old stuff, she is now a proud resident of D.C.’s Eckington neighborhood, about a mile north of the Senate.

Lauren Gardner is a transportation reporter for POLITICO Pro. Before joining POLITICO, she covered energy and environment policy at CQ Roll Call, writing about everything from the EPA's climate change rules to the oil and gas exports debate in Congress. Gardner started her career in Washington as an IRS reporter for BNA. Gardner, a Philadelphia native, graduated from American University with degrees in journalism and international studies. Outside of the Capitol, you can find her running the trails of Northern Virginia and D.C. or rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles. She lives with her husband and their beagle mix Barkley in Alexandria.


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