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 want to recognize Keith Parker for the work he’s done to expand and strengthen MARTA’s service to the people of the Atlanta area. And I want to thank Yvette Taylor, Dudley Whyte, and FTA’s entire Region 4 Office 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 a solar eclipse and three major hurricanes! Much of my introduction to the industry was through the telephone calls I made at that time to transit General Managers and 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, in fact, our job at FTA: to listen. Whenever I have the chance to speak with any of you – whether during an emergency or day-to-day – my approach will be similar: to ask questions, to listen to the answers, and to act on what I hear.
My experience working for Governor Hogan at the Maryland Department of Transportation where I was tasked with managing the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority portfolio has given me a lot of hands-on experience, particularly with that system.
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. So 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 number of grants subject to quarterly reporting 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 almost 11,600 quarterly reports and saving recipients over 90,000 staff hours. We’ll be sending 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.
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 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 rail, bus, and other transit services in urbanized and non-urbanized areas. Our goal is to help each of the other states meet the deadline so that they can continue to receive grants that help make rail and bus services possible.
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 each of you will have an approved and certified State Safety Oversight program.
Last, but certainly not least, you’ll hear a lot more about these topics later this week when we have the pleasure of hearing from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. I’m sure many of you know that the Secretary has a very long and distinguished career serving the nation, including most recently as President George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor. She also served as Deputy Secretary of DOT and Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission under President George H.W. Bush. She will be speaking 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 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.