Federal Highway Administration Official Provides Update on Transportation Policy

Federal Highway Administration Official Provides Update on Transportation Policy

October 11, 2012 (Washington, D.C.) – The American Recreation Coalition (ARC) welcomed John Horsley, Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and Gregory Nadeau, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), as the special guests at its October Recreation Exchange. Mr. Nadeau and ARC President Derrick Crandall used the Exchange as an opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Horsley, who is retiring from AASHTO at the end of the year. Mr. Crandall praised him for his leadership within the transportation community, as both a key official at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) during the Clinton Administration and in his current position at AASHTO. Mr. Nadeau thanked Mr. Horsley for his assistance as a personal mentor, which he credited as preparing him for his current position at DOT, and for guiding AASHTO as it evolved from a highway-focused organization to one with a multi-modal orientation. Mr. Horsley thanked the members of the recreation community for their partnership with AASHTO. He noted that, unlike AASHTO, very few public policy organizations understand the importance of the recreation industry and cited the lack of communication between state DOT’s and their counterparts in Tourism and Economic Development as a continuing challenge for AASHTO to address both now and in the future.

Following the recognition of Mr. Horsley, Mr. Nadeau spoke to the group about transportation policy. As a long-time member of the Maine legislature, as well as an advisor to the Governor of Maine, he drew on the example of Acadia National Park in Maine to cite the key role played by transportation in protecting and managing such natural treasures. He explained that the park was being overwhelmed by air-quality problems as well as by congestion, both of which were solved by the introduction of the Island Explorer, a very successful system providing transportation for both park visitors and area employees. Although transportation is inextricably linked to the preservation of treasures like Acadia, he cautioned that such a successful partnership should never be taken for granted.

The Deputy Administrator also offered comments about MAP-21, the surface transportation legislation that was enacted in July. He described the passage of the legislation as a “good, bipartisan effort” that provided some certainty and flexibility to transportation planning, while also supporting jobs, although he acknowledged that the legislation was not “transformational” on funding. He expressed the DOT’s continuing support for the National Scenic Byways Program despite the lack of approved funding for the program’s administration and grants. He described the continuation of dedicated funding for the Recreational Trails Program, with only two states opting out, as a “really remarkable outcome” that demonstrated the national support enjoyed by the program. He also cited the importance of bike-ped programs, which he described as good for tourism, good for healthy children, and good for the economy. Overall, he stated, commitment to these programs will be sustained by the transportation community.

With regard to MAP-21 guidance, Mr. Nadeau reported that some program guidance was yet to be released, including the Transportation Alternatives guidance that would cover the Recreational Trails Program. He explained that the guidance-release schedule had been directed by the FHWA’s understanding of what the states really needed to know immediately about MAP-21 implementation.

Mr. Nadeau was asked about the development of any strategy for investing in transportation infrastructure. In response, he was emphatic in his support for such investment. “We cannot not deal with this,” he said, describing the degradation of infrastructure as a slow, painful process that accelerates with time. “We need to begin investing today, not 10 years from now,” he stated. He also praised President Obama for elevating infrastructure investment to an Administration priority. He speculated about a possible “window of opportunity where serious people have serious conversations about funding,” but declined to go any further. “I’m optimistic, but making no predictions,” he said.

Additional questions focused on how to elevate the importance of investment in recreation roads and trails – in addition to highways, bridges and railroads – as infrastructure that is essential to rural economies as well as public health. “All politics is local,” observed Mr. Nadeau, who noted that 92.5% of MAP-21 funding was being distributed to the states, up from 82% under the previous law. As a result, he explained, state governors and state legislatures, who have been given more flexibility and more opportunities to be creative in their leveraging of resources, will now be the focus of requests for infrastructure funding, including funding on federal lands. More effort will be needed to identify opportunities for state investments in recreation infrastructure. Key to that effort will be work with local governments and gateway communities as well as private-sector partners. “It’s a new ballgame,” stated Mr. Nadeau.

Information on ARC’s Recreation Exchanges is available at: www.funoutdoors.com.

If you would like to contact Gregory Nadeau, he can be reached as follows:
Mr. Gregory G. Nadeau Deputy Administrator Federal Highway Administration 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Room E87-312 Washington, D.C. 20590 Latoya.hines@dot.gov

Recreation Exchanges are made possible by the following sponsors:

American Association for Nude Recreation
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
Bureau of Land Management
National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Park Service
National Tour Association
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Forest Service