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U.S. Secretary of Transportation says multi-modal transport is the future for Southeast

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, was in Charleston Friday to discuss the need for infrastructure.

It's one of 11 stops as part of a nation wide forum looking at ways to handle the population growth in the future.

According to a new draft report, "Beyond Traffic", in the next 30 years we are expected to see 70 million more people out on the roadways.

According to Secretary Foxx, of that 70 million, a large majority will be headed to this area of the Southeast.

"If this area doesn't start thinking ahead, and learn how to plan for that level of population density, it's going to become constrained," Secretary Foxx said.

That area is called the Piedmont-Atlantic "Mega-region" which includes Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Columbia, and Raleigh-Durham.

The draft report is focused on five sections: 1) how we move, 2) how things (products) move, 3) impact of climate, 4) technology and 5) how we align our decisions and values within transportation methods.

Foxx says the time to start planning is now.

"The reality is the systems that were built yesterday for yesterday's traffic, aren't prepared for tomorrow," Secretary Foxx said. "It's no longer a question of winding roads, it's a question of creating transportation systems that accommodate people taking short trips, long trips, companies that need to move goods."

"The Southeast is growing faster than any other part of the country, which is good for us, good for our economy," added City of Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. "But, unless we get additional resources to provide infrastructure, then we're not going to be able to service this growth."

Mayor Riley feels increasing the gas tax will help provide more funding for those multi-modal improvements to transportation.

The federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993.

Secretary Foxx echoed Riley's opinion on the tax saying Congress needs to look at the overall picture.

However another plan to look at is the Rail Pack, already supported by Virginia and North Carolina.

The Secretary feels adding South Carolina and Georgia into the mix, will greatly improve passenger rail travel in the Southeast.

"We need to be ready," said City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "This passenger rail corridor is very important because the growth is coming to the Southeast and it will give us connectivity to the northern corridor - Washington DC, to New York, New Jersey, and Boston."

Secretary Foxx says all of these ideas come with change, and it will come one way or another.

The U.S. citizens need to be open to it.

He's also asking cities to stay ahead of the influx in population.

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