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A former senior Obama era transportation official currently working with President-elect Joe Biden’s team expressed optimism about the incoming administration’s potential for advancing a major infrastructure package.
John Porcari, an adviser to the Biden-Harris campaign and formerly deputy secretary of transportation under President Barack Obama, said a Biden White House would aim to pursue a dynamic, transformative infrastructure agenda.
Addressing the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on Nov. 12, Porcari explained that over the coming years Biden’s team would seek to reinforce safety along freight and commuter corridors, adopt initiatives meant to assist regional economies and increase agencies’ focus on severe-weather resilience.
Development of severe-weather resilient infrastructure anchored congressional Democrats’ agenda on the issue during President Donald Trump’s era.
Porcari, who recently held a leadership role with professional services firm WSP, noted the incoming transportation team will be “paying attention to lower-cycle costs by building more resilient infrastructure; basically being a good steward of public dollars — that will be a critical part of the program.”
He added, “You can expect [resiliency] to basically trickle through the federal program across the board.”
Under Biden’s leadership, transportation agencies also would adopt a national framework for autonomous vehicles while enhancing venues for innovation and technological advancements. Promoting access to autonomous technology could advance yearslong industry efforts that have evolved absent congressional policy input.
You can expect [resiliency] to basically trickle through the federal program across the board.
“Every dollar is going to need to do double or triple duty,” he said, emphasizing a need to strengthen the domestic manufacturing base as well as enhancing economic development. “Relatively modest investments can pay off big for the economy.”
Prioritizing opportunities derived from robust transit networks and functioning Amtrak operations also would be front-and-center for the next leaders at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additionally, Biden’s infrastructure policy platform would borrow heavily from his campaign’s blueprint, Porcari said. Central points of the Biden campaign included proposals to expand broadband access across rural areas, facilitating the use of electric vehicles and boosting access to renewable energy.
“There are real prospects for a bipartisan, broad infrastructure program. It’s no secret to anybody that President-elect Biden has long been an advocate of infrastructure. He feels it in his bones,” Porcari added. Realizing any or all aspects of Biden’s transportation agenda will necessitate congressional support.
The group that will help shape that agenda during the transition is led by Phillip Washington, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, according to the Biden-Harris camp.
The transportation transition team also includes Polly Trottenberg, New York City transportation commissioner and formerly a senior transportation policy official during the Obama era, Brendan Danaher with Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, and Therese McMillan, formerly at the Federal Transit Administration.
The Biden team said announcements regarding Cabinet-level positions could begin as early as this month. Various officials and congressional aides told Transport Topics that former USDOT officials, such as Porcari, are likely to have a role with the new administration.
Separately, a former transportation official with knowledge of the transition process told TT that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is being considered for a leadership role in the administration. The official explained, however, it was undetermined for which position Garcetti would be tapped. Garcetti’s office did not return requests seeking comment. The transition’s press team also did not return requests for comment.
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