APTA Annual Conference and Expo – Atlanta, GA
Remarks of Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Dick, for that kind introduction.
It’s a real pleasure to be here with you today in Atlanta.
I'd like to begin by recognizing and thanking Doran for his service as APTA chair, and to congratulate Nat on his appointment as the new chairman.
A special thanks to Mayor Reed for hosting this event in the great city of Atlanta, as well as to Keith Parker and MARTA Board Chair Robert Ashe. Keith and the Board have done exceptional work expanding and strengthening MARTA's service for the people of Atlanta. I hope to be able to take a ride on the MARTA system while I'm here.
I also want to recognize my FTA leadership team here with me today and in particular to thank Yvette Taylor, Dudley Whyte, and FTA’s entire Region 4 Office here in Atlanta, for hosting us while also responding to this season’s hurricanes.
When I was sworn in as the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration in August, I knew it would be a busy time – particularly while serving as Acting Administrator.
But I was certainly not expecting four major hurricanes!
Much of my introduction to the transit industry was through the telephone calls I made in my first few weeks on the job to transit General Managers and state transportation officials.
I wanted to know how we at FTA could help them prepare for and recover from those devastating storms.
I don’t mind telling you that I came to them with more questions than I had answers – but I believe that is a BIG part of our job at FTA: to listen.
Whenever I have the chance to speak with any of you – whether during an emergency or ANY day – my approach will be similar: to ask questions PAUSE, to listen to the answers, and to act on what I hear.
During my time working for Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn at the Maryland Department of Transportation, where I was tasked with managing the transit portfolio for Washington Metro in DC, has given me a lot of hands-on experience.
Obviously, you all collectively hold a far greater breadth of knowledge than I do, so I will be looking to you for insight on how FTA can be a partner.
I look forward to that ongoing dialogue, along with my colleagues at FTA.
Our nation’s public transportation systems were built on a partnership among federal, state, and local agencies.
With that thought in mind, we are reviewing our regulations and our policies to see where we, as your Federal partner, may be creating roadblocks instead of express lanes.
We’ve already identified a way to reduce the amount of quarterly reporting on grants by 44% by instituting a risk-based approach to Milestone Progress Reports and Federal Financial Reports that are currently required four times a year. Those grants that are $2 million or less will now be able to report just once a year, eliminating more than 11,000 quarterly reports and saving recipients over 90,000 staff hours. We’ll be sending you a “Dear Colleague Letter” soon giving you more information.
If we’re going to meet the growing demand for transit services, we’ll have to get those projects started – and finished – much more quickly.
And we’re going to have to find ways to include the private sector – including, through Public Private Partnerships, when appropriate – so that we can make federal investments go further to ensure the long-term operation of critical infrastructure.
State Safety Oversight
We’re also working to partner with many of your states to help establish the State Safety Oversight programs required by the passage of MAP-21 prior to the April 15, 2019 deadline. There are 30 states with rail transit systems that require an FTA approved and certified State Safety Oversight program.
Congratulations to the State of Ohio, which was the first state to obtain FTA certification.
If a state fails to meet the deadline, FTA is prohibited by law from obligating any funds to public transportation agencies throughout that state until certification is achieved. That includes funds for rail, bus, and other transit services in urbanized and non-urbanized areas.
I want to emphasize, that FTA will do all we can, to help each of the states meet the deadline so that they can continue to receive federal transit funding that contribute to making rail and bus services possible. I recognize that meeting the deadline is a big challenge for many of you. I was, until very recently, sitting on the other side of the table. I had to navigate the complex array of issues, obstacles, and challenges in my role at Maryland DOT. We worked with Virginia and DC to develop joint legislation that will establish the foundation for a federally compliant State Safety Oversight Agency. It wasn’t easy. So I know what it’s like to go through this process.
That is why it has been my goal from day one to be your partner in this effort. FTA has been in regular communication with SSO program managers and staff, conducted training workshops, and distributed guidance to SSO program managers.
We also plan to reach out to your Governors and state DOTs to inform and encourage them.
We look forward to working with all of you to ensure that you will have an FTA approved and certified State Safety Oversight program.
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll hear a lot more about transportation issues later this week when we have the pleasure of hearing from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I’m sure many of you know that Secretary Chao has a very long and distinguished career serving the nation, including most recently as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor the only cabinet member of his Administration to serve all eight years. She also served as Deputy Secretary of DOT, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Maritime Administration and Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission.
Secretary Chao will speak about her priorities for the Department and President Trump’s vision for strengthening and expanding our transportation infrastructure – including transit. It is my distinct honor and privilege to be a member of her team. Until then, I hope you enjoy the conference, and I look forward to engaging with each of you.