Foxx: Washington Must Stop Undershooting on Transportation

As transportation officials in New York prepare to build the transit system of the 21st Century, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx offers one cautionary note: don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. 

“Historically, we valued throughput in our transportation system while paying far less attention to places in between,” Foxx said Wednesday morning at a forum on New York-area transit hosted by City & State at New York University. Quoting a story in The New York Times, Foxx added that one such place, the Staten Island neighborhood of Tompkinsville, has been isolated by the Staten Island Expressway to the point where it resembles its own island.

“There are many such islands that are isolated by highways and railroad tracks all across America … how can we revitalize and connect communities and (how) can we lift people up who are struggling to get into the middle class,” Foxx said. “We’re trying to get back in the business of building again, and building in an inclusive, 21st Century way.” One way to ensure all neighborhoods are connected to needed resources is to invest in bus lines that will connect residents to needed services, Foxx added.

Building an inclusive transportation network is one of the main priorities of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Grow America Act, a $478 billion plan that would fund infrastructure improvements for six years, upgrading bridges and railways.

Another priority is improving street design and safety for motorists and pedestrians.

“New York City is leading the way on this issue,” Foxx said, noting that the Department of Transportation supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan designed to end traffic-related deaths in the city by 2020. “You’ve worked hard to achieve significant reductions in the number of people getting struck and killed by vehicles in the city.”

Last year, Foxx said, the U.S. Department of Transportation contributed $25 million to help New York fulfill Vision Zero. Yet there is so much more to be done.

Foxx said the Gateway Project, which would connect downtown Manhattan to New Jersey through a new Hudson River tunnel, is perhaps one of the most important projects in the country—yet it has never gotten off the ground. Foxx said Washington D.C. is a big part of the problem. 

“If we want America to think big, if we want America to go big, if we want to connect communities in the city, in the state, across this country, we’re going to need Washington to stop undershooting the target,” Foxx said. “To really make a dramatic move forward with long-term sustainable funding that moves this country forward.”