Foxx Sees Tsunami of Change Coming to Transportation

By David Elfin, Transport Topics, June 27, 2016
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx sees “a tsunami of change” coming in transportation over the next 30 years. That was the theme of his speech at Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center on June 27 in Boston.
“Technology exists to solve a problem, but if we’re unclear about what the problem is that we’re trying to solve, we’ll never solve it,” Foxx said during the speech that was broadcast online. “We’re facing a tsunami of change in transportation. We’re going to have 70 million more people over the next 30 years.
“There are changes where those people are coalescing. Many of them coalescing around our urban centers, and many of them are moving to the South and to the West, places that historically have been more dependent on the automobile.”
Foxx also sees changes ahead for the movement of freight.
“Freight and the dynamics around freight are changing,” Foxx said. “The new Panama Canal opened over the weekend. That’s going to create massive competition, particularly on the East Coast for ports to become favorite ports for post-Panamax vessels. That’s a dynamic that’s changing freight. [There’s] a need to create taller bridges for double-stack containers and make sure that our surface system is as strong and robust as possible.”
Foxx said the autonomous vehicle space is still so much in its infancy that DOT’s rules are more akin to the lofty ideals of the Declaration of Independence than the hard and fast rules of the Constitution.
“There are disruptions underway in the way things get to us and in the way we get places. Do you need a driver’s license to operate an autonomous car? We just got a long-term transportation bill; it’s a good time to figure out the answers.”
Among the questions transportation planners need to address, Foxx said, are how many more lane miles to build in a time of increasing urbanization.
“We have more than 40,000 miles of interstate highways across the country,” he said. “That’s a lot of real estate. The way we touch that land can create revitalization activity, but it can also go the other way. We need to think about how we design those projects, how they impact the areas they touch.”

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