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Champions of Change are Rebuilding America

Secretary Ray LaHood celebrates the Champions of Change who are improving America's infrastructure through innovation

The work we do in government cannot be done without our partners. Whether we're investing in safety, road repair, or regional transit solutions, the team using those funds must be responsible and innovative to ensure we get the most bang for our buck. And when those funds are designed to help stimulate a flagging economy--as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act intended--getting the most from our investments is even more critical.

Throughout our ARRA grant making activity, DOT has been very fortunate to have the kind of capable partners these important investments demanded. And I'm pleased that, yesterday, the White House honored several of them as Champions of Change.

These leaders are creating jobs in their communities and using innovative techniques to develop valuable projects to improve America’s infrastructure, build roads and bridges, expand high-speed broadband, provide clean water and energy, and much more.

With the assistance of grants and loans from the Obama Administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the transportation leaders I met yesterday have delivered tremendous benefits to their communities:

  • Justin Augustine is Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans, which is currently engaged in the Loyola Avenue streetcar expansion.
  • Dr. Jana Davis is Associate Executive Director and Chief Scientist of the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The Trust has advocated effectively for a Green Streets approach to managing storm water runoff.
  • Paulson Chaco is Director of the Navajo Division of Transportation occupying a cabinet level position to the President of the Navajo Nation. He is responsible for 18,000 miles of roadway, 15,000 of which are unpaved and very susceptible to weather conditions.
  • Henry Perahia is Chief Bridge Officer of the New York City Department of Transportation. He manages 787 city-owned bridges and tunnels.
  • Sam E. Swan is Project Manager for the DFW Connector Project; this project has used an innovative design-build approach to unsnarl a complex tangle of traffic coming and going from the nation's eighth busiest airport.

With Paulson Chaco, Henry Perahia, and Sam Swan

Each of them has written on about the changes they worked so hard to achieve, and I encourage you to read about their terrific projects. The challenge will be figuring out where to jump in.

Now, as much as we need good partners to get the biggest bang for our buck, without the Obama Administration's ARRA investments, there wouldn't have been any bang at all.

The budget the President proposed this week will ensure that federal investments in transportation continue in a predictable way for the next six years. The certainty offered by a long-term bill is precisely what America's transportation leaders--like the Champions of Change I met yesterday--need to plan confidently for tomorrow's infrastructure and begin putting our friends and neighbors back to work today.

Ray LaHood is the US Secretary of Transportation.