November 27, 2019: Federal Register (full link below)
The Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation (DOT) issues a request for information regarding the ROUTES Initiative. On October 28, 2019, the Secretary of Transportation issued an order launching the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) initiative. ROUTES will help the Department of Transportation (DOT) address disparities in rural transportation infrastructure to tangibly improve safety and economic competitiveness in all parts of the country. This notice requests comments on unmet transportation infrastructure needs in rural transportation, barriers that rural communities face in addressing these needs, stakeholders' experiences with applying to and using DOT discretionary grant and credit programs, and opportunities for DOT to improve its services and technical assistance to rural communities in relation to these grant and credit programs.
Comments must be received on or before 30 days from posting of this notice. DOT will consider comments filed after this date to the extent practicable.
The mission of the DOT is to ensure our Nation has the safest, most efficient, and modern transportation system in the world; that improves the quality of life for all American people and communities, from rural to urban; and increases the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses. To accomplish this mission, Congress authorizes and appropriates funds to the DOT, which administers a large portfolio of grant and credit programs to maintain and improve aspects of our transportation network. Each year, DOT awards billions of dollars in discretionary transportation grants using prescribed selection and eligibility criteria.
Rural transportation networks are critically important for domestic uses and export of agriculture, mining, and energy commodities, as well as the quality of life for all Americans. However, rural networks face unique challenges in safety, infrastructure condition, and usage.
DOT seeks information directly from the public and other stakeholders to inform the development and implementation of the ROUTES initiative. DOT seeks comments that illustrate rural communities' needs and experiences with transportation infrastructure, including the condition of that infrastructure, its effect on safety, and how its use affects the community. For the purpose of this notice, “transportation” includes road, rail, transit, aviation, maritime, pipelines, and other forms of transportation; “infrastructure” includes all capital investment in transportation such as structures, equipment, and rolling stock. This includes comments and data pertaining to current unmet needs in rural transportation, barriers rural communities face in addressing these transportation needs, stakeholders' experiences with applying to and using DOT discretionary grant and credit programs, and opportunities for the DOT to improve its services and technical assistance to rural communities in relation to these grant and credit programs, within the limits of statutory requirements. In addition, DOT specifically requests comments and data in response to the questions below. To the extent possible, DOT seeks relevant technical information, regulatory citations, data, or other evidence to support the comments received.
According to the ROUTES Initiative webpage, the ROUTES Council will be chaired by the Under Secretary for Transportation, which will oversee the ROUTES Infrastructure Management Team in three primary activities:
- Collecting input from stakeholders on the benefits rural projects offer for safety and economic benefits, as well as the type and degree of assistance rural projects require
- Providing user-friendly information to rural communities to assist them in understanding and applying for DOT discretionary grants
- Improving DOT’s data-driven approaches to better assess needs and benefits of rural transportation infrastructure projects.
The ROUTES Initiative will be coordinated across key modal administrations, including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).