When people ask me about my priorities as Transportation Secretary, I always say that safety must come first at DOT.
But we must do more than ensure safety and maintain our current infrastructure. With the U.S. population expected to grow by 100 million in the next 30 years, we must also make sure our transportation system is prepared to meet that growing demand. It will be a big challenge, but it also represents a powerful opportunity.
Transportation is much more than the roads we drive on or the buses we ride. As we expand our system to meet the needs of our growing population, we can also use transportation to give people ladders of opportunity and help connect them to the 21st century economy. We can do the same for communities, creating the foundation for a strong, competitive economy.
Last Friday, in New Orleans, I saw a terrific example of transportation's ability to do this, with the Loyola Avenue Streetcar.
The Loyola Avenue Streetcar is connecting people with employment centers, education, and services; connecting businesses with workers and customers; growing jobs and the local economy and doing it all while getting the most out of our transportation dollars.
The new Loyola line--launched with DOT funding--travels through the city's business district, providing access to jobs and essential government and healthcare services. It connects directly with Amtrak and intercity bus service, as well as streetcar service on Canal Street that connects residents to even more opportunities.
It also means new economic development. Nearly $2.7 billion has been invested in building and renovating properties along or near the streetcar corridor.
And it's not just happening in New Orleans.
For example, DOT gave the City of El Paso $13.5 million to build its Mesa Corridor Bus Rapid Transit line, which should open next year. According to Mayor Oscar Leeser, all of the companies that invested in the communities around this line said they did it because of the transit development.
So, we're not only helping El Paso commuters get to work, school, medical appointments, and elsewhere. We're also creating the conditions for economic growth, which then increases the number of opportunities available to El Paso-ans.
That's why this Department will keep fighting for safer, more reliable connections to the ladders of opportunity that President Obama is calling on us to build.