Chao announces new R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative during AASHTO meeting

Updated Oct 20, 2019
Sec. Elaine Chao announces new R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative during AASHTO annual meeting.Sec. Elaine Chao announces new R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative during AASHTO annual meeting.

During her speech at the 2019 American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) annual meeting, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced the launch of a new initiative that is supported by the new Rural Transportation Council.

The R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative (Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success) will focus on the “disparities” in rural transportation infrastructure to “tangibly improve safety and economic competitiveness” in all parts of the country.

“This new initiative will ensure that rural infrastructure is given full consideration in all the U.S. Department of Transportation discretionary grant programs,” Chao said during the meeting, according to AASHTO. “We will bring together leaders and staff in key infrastructure modes — highways, aviation, transit, and railroads — to examine grant programs’ potential to better support the nation’s critical rural transportation infrastructure. Rural America is not looking for a handout; it just wants fairness and equity in the distribution of funds.”

“All of this calls for a sharper focus in rural areas to meet national transportation needs,” Chao added, explaining that the R.O.U.T.E.S. Initiative will help prioritize rural infrastructure projects that apply for discretionary grants. “It will also serve as a helpful, centralized point of information for transportation officials and project sponsors serving rural areas. And will be helpful in accessing and navigating programs and resources across the modal agencies.

“…I will sign the order setting up a new Rural Transportation Council to execute and manage the R.O.U.T.E.S. initiative and to involve stakeholders, starting with state DOTs, local governments, and national organizations,” Sec. Chao said, pointing out that the new council will serve as a central point to execute the new rural infrastructure-focused effort. “We are as intent as ever focused on improving the transportation system throughout the whole country, but we are not into command and control, top-down directives; that’s because we believe in you as leaders embedded in your communities. We want to help you build, modernize, and maintain the infrastructure that you think best suits the needs of your states. Transportation has an enduring impact on society — so bit by bit, project by project, mile by mile, we are laying the groundwork for a better future and strong America for all our people.”