Nicole Nason (seen above) made her first public remarks as the new administrator of the Federal Highway Administration on May 14 at a legislative summit sponsored by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association in Washington, D.C., emphasizing the importance of “protecting and preserving” transportation infrastructure for the generations of Americans yet to come.
[Above photo by ARTBA.]
“The importance of infrastructure is not news to anyone here,” Nason emphasized in her speech. “We are a nation built on transportation. And we owe future generations to protect it.”
She added that she’s having “conversations every single day about infrastructure” as it is “crumbling while at the same time we’re demanding more from it.”
That’s one reason why Nason’s priorities are “firmly aligned” with those of her boss, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “My first priority is the safety of entire transportation system; making roads and bridges safer and more reliable. That is top of mind for Sec. Chao and for me as well,” Nason said. “Second and third are surface transportation [funding] reauthorization and innovation – where funding is concerned, all options are on the table. And I look forward to working with states and local communities to foster transportation innovations.”
In terms of “fostering innovation,” she said FHWA expects to issue its first “update” later this year regarding the infrastructure support needed for autonomous vehicles.
“We’re hoping we will be able to work together [with the industry] to share this information,” Nason added. “Technology, from drones to autonomous vehicles, is altering the way we travel and connect with each other. And none of those and other new innovations fit neatly into any one box or any one mode.”
In terms of regulatory reform, she said that focus will continue to be “how can we move decision making from Washington D.C. to the state and local levels. All of us at USDOT aim to bring more regulatory reform to the permitting process, using concurrent [environmental] reviews and attain a two-year completion timeline for permits. It is all about achieving a lighter federal touch where regulation is concerned.”
The workforce needs of the transportation sector are not far from her mind, either, Nason noted. “The world of transportation is evolving in many interesting ways,” she said. “Innovation is necessary, but the need for expertise is important. Highway systems depend on qualified workers.”