Friday, July 07, 2006

Norman Mineta Outlines "Transportation Truths"

Reliable and quality transportation are key elements of economic development, emergency preparedness and to a nation's, state's and community's operational viability.

Making his final appearance as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on 6 July, Norman Mineta outlined a series of "truths" he believes America must face as the nation grapples with the future of its transportation system.

In an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mineta said, "Our transportation system today is at a critical juncture that cries out for bipartisanship - or, more accurately, for statesmanship. And while we have laid important legislative and policy foundations, continued progress requires facing some basic truths." Mineta went on to cite the following:

-- The modern economy and by extension, our transportation systems, are global in nature.

The United States has the strongest, fastest growing economy in the developed world because we have some of the world's strongest transportation systems. But we will lose that competitive edge if we make a habit out of turning our noses up at investors in our seaports, airports, and highways just because they are headquartered outside the United States.

"Security is, and must always remain, a foremost concern. But it is pure folly to think that economic isolationism is an option in today's interconnected world." He said the development of transportation systems has become a major determinant of a nation's economic success. "And while the rest of the world is building up its infrastructure, the United States can ill-afford to close the door on much-needed investments -- even international investments -- in our transportation network.

-- Americans must be concerned with the safety of not just our own, but of the world's transportation systems.

Every year more than 1.2 million people die worldwide as a result of road traffic crashes. By the year 2020, traffic crashes will run ahead of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS among all contributors to the global health burden.

-- Just as morbidity should not be accepted as the price of mobility, so too must Americans reject the unhealthy notion that congestion is a fact of life and that they must learn to live with growing gridlock and an unreliable transportation system.

The economic price tag of congestion is already $200 billion a year, not to mention the largely unmeasured social costs when parents leave for work at dawn, only to get home just as their children are about ready to go to bed. He referred to a plan announced by the U.S. DOT to address traffic congestion nationwide, saying "it will necessitate a cultural change to move from a government-monopoly model for much of our transportation infrastructure toward acceptance of the private sector and market forces."

"Finding a way to tackle congestion more meaningfully and successfully is not a problem for some future generation. It is an urgent challenge for today's leaders."

-- Our transportation systems are lifelines in times of emergency.

"Whether an emergency is caused by a deliberate act of terrorism or results from a natural disaster or a health care crisis such as avian flu, we must be able to depend on our transportation systems to evacuate people in need, to move critical supplies and emergency workers, and to provide essential resources rapidly into affected areas.

"It is no coincidence that terrorists target our transportations systems. They are the heart of modern societies and modern economies."

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