Text from 2002 Patterson Lecture

Norman Mineta
Secretary of Transportation

Thank you, Aaron, for that kind introduction. Thank you also to Bob Gallamore for the invitation to speak to you this evening.

This lecture honors the late William A. Patterson, a central figure in the Nation's air transport industry for more than four decades. Mr. Patterson was one of America’s true transportation visionaries.

He also played an instrumental role in developing Northwestern University into one of the world’s most respected institutions of higher learning, and in the establishment and strategic leadership of the Transportation Center.

It is indeed a distinct honor for me to deliver this 21st annual Patterson Transportation Lecture.

As Secretary of Transportation, I look forward to each trip to Chicago and Evanston, in large part because, as much as any other American city, this region demonstrates the power of transportation infrastructure decisions ­ decisions boldly made in the face of great uncertainty, decisions that changed the face of the region and our Nation.

From the construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, to the transcontinental railroad, to the first "El's" in Chicago, to the "get us out of the mud" roads and later the Interstates, to Midway and then O'Hare and eventually Peotone airports, this region has demonstrated the wisdom and the courage to develop transportation systems that can renew and strengthen its economy, and improve then quality of life of the people who live here.

Tonight, we confront a more dangerous world than any of us imagined just a year ago. As all of you know, last September, a determined and remorseless enemy, unconstrained by law or morality, attacked one of America’s most cherished freedoms, the freedom of mobility.

President Bush has directed us to build a transportation security system that will provide a strong defense against such external threats ­ most importantly, against terrorists, but also against drugs, disease, and other dangerous elements.

But, the President fully recognizes that global transportation systems transcend national boundaries, so he also expects an efficient approach to transportation security, one that poses little or no obstacle to legitimate trade and travel.

At the DOT, we have worked literally day and night for the last seven and a half months to prevent terrorists and other criminals from ever again using any facet of our transportation system as a weapon against any American, anywhere.

As a part of that commitment, the Bush Administration worked with Congress to pass the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. This law makes security for all modes of transportation, for the first time, a responsibility of the federal government.

To carry out this critical new responsibility, Congress created a separate agency within DOT called the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, and President Bush appointed one of America’s leading law enforcement professionals, John W. Magaw, to head it up.

Once fully operational later this year, the TSA will have more employees than the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Border Patrol combined.

We will have overlapping, mutually reinforcing layers of security, some readily visible to the public, like screening stations, while other layers remain unseen, like intelligence, undercover work and state-of-the-art technology tools.

We will maintain a core commitment to measure performance relentlessly, building an organization that provides both world-class security and world-class customer service to the traveling public.

Much of the TSA’s activity so far has occurred behind-the-scenes. From the very beginning, our priority has been to do it fast ­ and, just as importantly, to do it right.

Now, all the behind-the-scenes work will begin to take center stage. For example, two months ago, TSA took over responsibility for all airport screening security personnel. We designated Baltimore-Washington International Airport as the site for developing better screening procedures.

We implemented a number of common-sense changes to passenger screening, such as providing chairs and shoehorns for passengers whose shoes we inspect, and hardwiring the X-ray equipment into an outlet in the ceiling, so it does not get unplugged inadvertently.

These new procedures have resulted in measurable success. We cut wait times during peak hours from 20-plus minutes down to 10 or 15 minutes. We increased the number of passengers passing through the checkpoints by 40 percent, and cut the maximum number of people in line at peak times by a third. Customer satisfaction has also risen to new levels.

We fully expect that when we roll-out these new screening procedures here in Chicago, we will see similar success.

Also earlier today, TSA announced the awarding of a contract for up to $105 million to Lockheed Martin Services to provide classroom training for the new passenger screeners the agency will hire. Under this contract, Lockheed will conduct a program delivering a minimum of 40 hours of classroom training for each screener, five times the amount they received under the old system.

Screeners will also receive 60 hours of on-the-job training, and we will administer a tough final examination as a requirement for graduation.

We have already started to rollout this new federal aviation security organization, airport-by-airport, terminal-by-terminal, and we will continue to do so with careful dispatch, always mindful of our deadlines and resource constraints.

In fact, at the peak of this summer, we expect to manage some phase of the transition process at over 100 airports simultaneously. And, before the end of this year, we will have the Federal security screening workforce in place at all 429 commercial airports.

And, although much of the media attention has focused on our aviation security efforts, the Department of Transportation has also been developing heightened security procedures and awareness across every mode of transportation, including rail, highways, transit, maritime and pipeline.

Transportation security across the board is better today than it was yesterday; and, it will be better yet tomorrow.

At the same time, we have not lost sight of the fact that the demand for both passenger and freight transportation continues to grow steadily, and that it already strains the capacity of much of our existing infrastructure.

Of course, the Chicago region has experienced the impact of these trends. For example, the freight volumes moving through the region ranks as the third highest in the world, with the region’s 24 rail yards serving as a freight hub for the Nation. As another example, the FAA already rates O’Hare as the second busiest airport in the country, and it forecasts steady growth over the next decade.

Americans have built an extensive and productive transportation system based on the strength of individual modes ­ air, marine, highway, and rail.

Now, we must address the challenge of blending these separate constituencies into a single, national, intermodal transportation system... one which integrates the individual modes in a manner that is at once economically efficient, equitable, and environmentally sound.

Eleven years ago, I had the privilege of serving as the chair of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Public Works and Transportation Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, where I helped author the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, or ISTEA.

This landmark federal legislation recognized the constraints and consequences of traditional modal policies, emphasizing instead an intermodal approach based on flexibility, innovation, and greater public involvement.

Congress reaffirmed and expanded these intermodal principles in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21. TEA-21 revolutionized transportation funding and authorized record levels of investment for surface transportation.

Looking to the not-too-distant future, the Bush Administration has begun the process of developing the successor to TEA-21. I expect key elements of the Administration’s reauthorization proposal will build upon the reforms of the past.

But, we have an opportunity to do more. I have directed DOT to achieve several goals in the reauthorization process:

The new legislation must continue to assure adequate and predictable funding for investment in the Nation’s surface transportation system.

It must preserve funding flexibility to allow the broadest application of funds to the best transportation solutions identified by our state and local partners.

We must build on the intermodal approaches of ISTEA and TEA-21.

We must expand and improve the programs of innovative financing, so as to encourage private sector investment in the transportation system, and look for other inventive means to augment existing revenue streams.

We must re-emphasize the security of the nation’s surface transportation system, and we must continue to focus on making improvements to its safety. None of us should consider it acceptable, for example, that we suffer 41,000 deaths and over 3 million injuries annually on America’s highways.

We must continue to develop and deploy innovative technology, with the ultimate goal of making “intelligent transportation system” an unnecessarily redundant phrase.

Finally, we must look for ways to simplify federal transportation programs, focusing on the management and performance of the system as a whole.

We have a critical opportunity to work together in crafting legislation to reauthorize America’s surface transportation programs. We want your ideas ­ and the best time for your involvement is right now.

President Bush has given us a clear goal ­ every American has the right to expect a safe, accessible, affordable and reliable transportation system. He has asked outstanding individuals to join in fulfilling that mission, and many of you here have answered that call.

The Transportation Center at Northwestern University can continue to play a very important role by identifying emerging technologies and studying how they might benefit transportation and logistic services in the future.

In times past, when challenging and complex situations faced the United States, our best minds have responded with advanced technology to meet our national needs. Now, more than ever, we must draw upon your expertise to meet the transportation challenges facing our Nation.

Thank you all. Travel safely. And God bless America.