DOT's Foxx Aims to Move Quickly to Carry Out FAST Act
Now that the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act is on the books, the next challenge is implementing it. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants to move rapidly to carry out the recently signed law’s directives and launch the programs it creates.
Foxx told reporters in a Dec. 18 briefing, “We are working even now to hit the ground running at the first of the year on standing those programs up.”
Perhaps the FAST Act’s biggest construction-related initiative is a new discretionary-grant program for “nationally significant freight and highway projects.”
The five-year, $305-billion measure, signed into law on Dec. 4, authorizes $4.5 billion over five years for the freight-highway grants. Annual funding will start at $800 million in the fiscal year that’s already two months underway.
Its funding then rises by $50 million annually to a peak of $1 billion in 2020, the FAST Act’s last year.
The freight-highway program’s 2016 funding is 60% larger than the highly popular TIGER grants, which DOT has awarded generally once a year since the program was established in 2009. The newly signed fiscal 2016 omnibus appropriation bill funds TIGER at $500 million, the same as in 2015.
Speaking generally about the FAST Act follow-through, Foxx, a former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., said, “I have a mayor’s level of patience with moving these things forward.”
He added that DOT is "actively working to develop action plans around the FAST Act” and will be “moving as quickly as we can with notices of funding availability” for the legislation's initiatives that involve distributing federal aid.
In an explanatory statement accompanying the statute, its congressional drafters said that highway-freight program “will facilitate the construction of infrastructure projects that are difficult to build using existing federal, state, local and private funds.”
They added that the program is aiming at projects that “will reduce the impact of congestion, generate national and regional economic benefits and facilitate the efficient movement of freight….”
In particular, the lawmakers said, “Across the country there are significant bottlenecks that could benefit from the program….”