Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from The Fast Lane -- the blog of the Department of Transportation.
Yesterday, I joined several of my DOT colleagues for a White House Business Council forum on American Economic Competitiveness focused on transportation infrastructure. It was great to sit down with businessmen and women from across the country; listen to their concerns and ideas; and discuss the Administration's initiatives on economic development, freight and passenger movement, and infrastructure financing.
It was exciting to meet with business leaders who understand that our transportation policies affect their bottom lines, and we heard over and over yesterday that transportation is an important priority for local chambers of commerce and their members.
Without freight corridors --whether air, sea, river, road, or rail-- businesses can't get access to raw materials or move their products to market. Without adequate transportation, employees can't get to their jobs and can't travel to meet distant vendors and customers to help grow their enterprises.
During the Obama Administration, transportation investments have generated much-needed jobs and have begun the critical task of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure. We have seen great success through both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, and especially through our Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, a multimodal, competitive, and tremendously successful initiative helping communities develop the transportation solutions that best fit their needs.
Yesterday's participants acknowledged these successes and indicated that they would like to see even more progress being made. I was particularly happy to hear them say that they want to help be the drivers of transportation change. And I know that the private sector will play an increasingly important role in America's transportation future.
Our White House session also provided an opportunity for members of our senior team -- including Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, and Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau — to highlight important aspects of the new surface transportation legislation, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).
The business community played a key role in calling for a long-term transportation bill, and in our meeting these leaders reinforced the need for federal, state, and local government to continue working closely with the private sector to share valuable information about how we're implementing MAP-21 moving forward.
Chris Bertram, DOT Assistant Secretary for Budget, also discussed project financing opportunities available through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). This innovative program provides credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance.
Improving America's transportation system is no easy task. And whether it's the U.S. Congress, State DOTs, or regional planning agencies, we can always use willing partners. So, we're excited to see growing private sector interest and involvement in transportation initiatives taking place across the country, and we look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the business community.