The main speakers on the first day of the 2020 annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials re-emphasized the importance of the nation’s transportation system to the everyday lives of all Americans – especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The importance of our transportation system has been demonstrated vividly during the pandemic,” explained U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (seen above) via video during AASHTO’s virtual annual meeting. “Transportation workers kept our nation moving despite the challenges of COVID-19.”
“We have taken a balanced focus on transportation infrastructure across our state – and that is more important than ever as we build the foundation for a sustainable economic recovery” from the COVID-19 outbreak, added Governor Larry Hogan (R) of Maryland.
“Transportation helps grow the American economy, improve the quality of life for our citizens, and preserves their safety,” he said.
“It is worth noting that state DOT employees stood in the gap in 2020 – a year of fire and flood; a year of hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic,” emphasized Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation and AASHTO’s 2019-2020 president.
“Our state work force showed how unsung heroes go about the job supporting our country,” he stressed. “When we are in such circumstances as these, it shows more starkly how important our work is and how critical it is to keep transportation network open and rolling. State DOTs are essential service providers – they are the ones clearing the way, allowing first responders to get to the scene. Our state DOTs can’t take a year off.”
Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director, added that the key name change for state DOTs over the last two decades – with all of them transitioning to a “department of transportation” moniker versus “department of highways,” as many were originally dubbed – reflects their now multi-modal focus when it comes to the need to move people and goods across the country.
“Transportation touches every part of our lives,” he emphasized in his remarks. “At end of the day, this is what it is all about: improving the quality of life for all Americans.”
Tymon also pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic did not prevent AASHTO from holding its annual meeting; an event suspended only once during the organization’s 106 year history – in 1945, due to the end of World War II. AASHTO subsequently held two annual meetings in 1946.