In a wide-ranging appearance Monday at the National Press Club, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he’d figured out how to bicycle to his office, and he touted vehicle-to-vehicle communications for cars as a technology that will reduce accidents in the future.
But Foxx avoided substantive comment on two of the most pressing current issues: the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine last week, and a pending rule from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration on rail shipment of volatile Bakken crude from North Dakota.
On other topics:
Highway Trust Fund: Foxx said while that the Obama administration is open to suggestions from Congress on how to raise revenue to make the fund viable, the excise tax on gasoline isn’t going to suffice in the long run.
“The gas tax itself has some challenges. No matter where you set the level, the curve of the gas is actually downward facing,” he said. “When our system was built in 1956, there was only growth in our revenue stream” due a growing population and drivers’ need to commute to and from suburbia.
But now that the growth in driving and in gasoline tax revenue has stopped, “we’re at a pivotal point” where gasoline tax revenue lags transportation funding needs.
As part of its Grow America Act the Obama administration has proposed raising $150 billion in what it calls “one-time transition revenue” for transportation from “pro-growth business tax reform.”
A tax on vehicle miles traveled: Foxx said a VMT tax “is something that is not very likely” as a remedy to current funding woes. He noted that Oregon is conducting a VMT pilot program, but “right now we need an answer and we’ve got one that we think is tailor made for his Congress to pass.”
Vehicles communicating with each via radio frequencies: “The whole idea that vehicles in the future will communicate with each other is a really big deal,” Foxx said. “It’s a big deal for safety … and it’s an opportunity to engage the automobile in the work of ensuring collision avoidance,” not only between cars but between cars and pedestrians.
Foxx said a pending Transportation Department rule on vehicle-to-vehicle technology “will basically provide the ground rules on which industry will then enter in, and do what they do best, which is innovate.”
Bicycling as a method of commuting: Foxx said “I have been trying for an entire year to figure out how to bike to work and I finally got it figured out. Two weeks ago I finally biked in to work and I was very proud of myself…. ”
Foxx predicted that “we’re going to need” bicycling as one commuting option as America’s urban population grows.
He praised the Republican mayor of Indianapolis, Gregory Ballard, for making his city so bike-friendly that Portland, Ore. — sometimes seen as a bike utopia — invited him to come to speak to city leaders there.
Ballard told Foxx that a company recently wanted to put a $100 million facility in Indianapolis, but insisted that it be near the bike path in the city.
The Container covers the transportation community in Washington.
Tom Curry (@TCurry_Himself) writes for The Container. He has been a national affairs reporter and editor for nearly two decades, having covered elections, Supreme Court nominations, fiscal policy and the health care debate.