Infrastructure’s Role in Closing the Opportunity Gap

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx spoke to a crowd at the National Transportation Systems Center about the department's Beyond Traffic program, urging attendees to start taking on their responsibility in planning for the future.

by / June 30, 2016
"I'm here to frame innovation within a human context," Secretary Foxx said at Volpe. Transportation.gov

"We’re facing a tsunami of change in transportation," U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said to an auditorium full of state and local transportation officials at a speaker series on June 27. While presenting the DOT's 30-year framework plan, Beyond Traffic, Foxx spoke about how in 30 years, the population is expected to grow by 70 million. The nation's infrastructure simply isn't ready for that amount of influx. Much of the country's existing infrastructure has reached the end of its useful life.

People are primarily coalescing in urban centers in the South and on the West Coast, places largely dependent on cars for transit. We need to rethink transportation.

Beyond Traffic is not an action plan and is not intended to be. It is a survey of where the country is and where current trends may take us if left unaddressed. Questions like, "Do you need a driver's license to operate an autonomous car?" or "How will Hyperloop technology be utilized across state borders?" are still left to self-proclaimed futurists and speculators. The federal and state transportation departments have a duty to understand and come up with answers to these questions.

As a part of the program, the U.S. DOT will begin inviting state and local transportation officials to participate, and give them one-on-one guidance to the future of mobility and how doing it right can help everyone the first time.

In the past, according to Foxx, transportation has shrugged off its responsibility to help citizens overcome income gaps and disparities in opportunity.

"We have never, in my opinion, as a transportation community owned the way I believe we should own our role in closing those opportunity gaps," Foxx stated.

Part of the solution is for traffic planners to develop what Foxx calls, a "better ear," to listen to the needs of all communities, not just the ones that are the loudest or have the most money. To meet this growing challenge, infrastructure leaders must think about what we're building and why we're building it.