Secretaries Granholm, Buttigieg to Headline 2023 TRB Conference

Jennifer Granholm, Pete Buttigieg
Granholm by Stefani Reynolds; Buttigieg by David Paul Morris, Bloomberg News

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Biden administration Cabinet secretaries Pete Buttigieg and Jennifer Granholm are headlining this year’s annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

On Jan. 11, the secretaries of Transportation and Energy, respectively, will share updates about the implementation of a $1 trillion infrastructure law at the gathering in Washington of thousands of stakeholders and enthusiasts.

Their session will offer details about a collaboration between their departments on electric vehicle programs. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, enacted in 2021, established the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation. The office’s aim is to help set up an electric vehicle charging network nationwide. Specifically, the bipartisan infrastructure law dedicated about $8 billion for electric vehicle initiatives.

“The office will be a critical component in the implementation of the [bipartisan infrastructure law], providing support and expertise to a multitude of programs that seek to deploy a network of electric vehicle chargers, zero-emission fueling infrastructure, and zero-emission transit and school buses. The scope of the joint office will continue to evolve as directed by both departments,” according to background the Biden administration provided about the joint venture.

The Transportation Research Board’s annual conference is scheduled for Jan. 9-12. The meeting’s theme is, “Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future.”

Recently, Buttigieg directed more than $2 billion, stemming from the infrastructure law, for bridge maintenance and repair projects. “Safe, modern bridges ensure that first responders can get to calls more quickly, shipments reach businesses on time, and drivers can get to where they need to go,” he said on Jan. 4.

Last month, the Energy Department proposed energy-efficiency standards meant to improve resiliency throughout power grids. As Granholm put it, “Efficient distribution transformers enhance the resilience of our nation’s energy grid and make it possible to deliver affordable electrical power to consumers in every corner of America.”

“By modernizing their energy-conservation standards, we’re ensuring that this critical component of our electricity system operates as efficiently and inexpensively as possible,” she added.

The annual meeting also will feature workshops and panels with industry executives, leaders from academia and senior transportation officials.

Robin Hutcheson


Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Chief Robin Hutcheson is scheduled to participate on a panel Jan. 9 that would highlight DOT’s national safety strategy. Participants on the panel will include Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Chief Ann Carlson and Federal Highway Administration Deputy Administrator Stephanie Pollack.

Launched last year, the department’s safety strategy is meant to outline a comprehensive approach for eliminating fatalities on highways, roads and streets. The strategy responds to recent NHTSA data estimating nearly 43,000 traffic fatalities in 2021. That was a 10.5% increase from the previous year.

“As the result of effective safety interventions and adoption of new technologies traffic fatalities had been on the decline in the [United States],” according to an assessment from DOT. “But progress has stalled in the last decade, and during the first two years of the pandemic moved in the wrong direction.”

At TRB, other panel discussions will pertain to severe-weather resilience, automated vehicles, transit operations, urban planning, supply chain connectivity, equity, land management, freight workforce and complete streets concepts.

Lillian Borrone


The TRB conference also will recognize executives deemed to have advanced national transportation policies with distinction. Honored with a lifetime achievement award will be Lillian Borrone. The newest recipient of the Frank Turner Medal is described by TRB as a “trailblazer for women in transportation.”

“Borrone has been a pathbreaker, based on her distinctive and highly effective blend of keen intellect, hard work and attention to detail, and gracious leadership,” according to TRB. Active in TRB activities throughout a career encompassing multimodal disciplines, she was a longtime executive at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. She also served as chairperson of the Eno Center for Transportation.

The TRB meeting will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington.

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