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During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to unleash the full power of the U.S. economy to create jobs and get our country moving again. One of the most underappreciated factors in economic stagnation is the heavy burden imposed on job creators by unnecessary, outdated, and duplicative regulations.

The red tape imposed by Washington not only stifles growth, but also imposes huge costs and delays on delivering the modern infrastructure and innovations our country needs so badly. The Hoover Dam, one of the most significant infrastructure projects in U.S. history, was proposed in the early 1920s and was completely finished by 1936, after only five years of construction. By comparison, a simple, additional runway at the Taos, New Mexico, airport took more than 20 years to complete because of the permitting and approval process. 

Similarly, in Alaska it took 35 years to clear the way for a road that provides, among other things, year-round access to medical care for a small community. That’s why the president, as a former builder, has made reining in regulatory overreach a priority. This includes permitting reform, which speeds up the process of getting approval for infrastructure projects, and regulatory reform, which tackles rules that raise costs and increase delays without benefiting the public.

On Jan. 30, 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order instituting a two-for-one regulatory mandate. For every new significant regulation, Cabinet agencies were required to issue at least two deregulatory actions. The U.S. Department of Transportation exceeded the president’s call.

At its peak, the department was issuing 23 deregulatory actions for every new significant regulatory action, without compromising safety or harming the environment. Today, the department continues to maintain the largest number of deregulatory actions by any federal department or agency.

This is a fundamental change in direction. Under the previous administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation — one department alone — increased regulatory costs on job creators by an average of nearly $3 billion each year, according to a DOT analysis of data from the Office of Management and Budget.

Combine this with every other federal agency churning out an avalanche of regulations and you can understand why the economy was slow to come back from the last recession. Under the Trump administration, the department increased cost savings every year. To date, the department has reduced regulatory costs to the economy and families by $90 billion — all without compromising safety in the transportation sector.

The Department of Transportation was the first to adopt the president’s executive orders into regulation through its historic “rule on rules,” which enshrines these common-sense principles. This new rule institutionalizes important reforms to the department’s rulemaking, guidance, and enforcement practices.

The “rule on rules” raises the bar for new regulations by strengthening due process and transparency, ensuring that future administrations carefully weigh the costs and benefits of their actions, and only act when authorized by Congress.

One of the department’s most significant regulatory achievements includes correcting the unachievable fuel economy standards set by the previous administration. In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this year published the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule

The new rule will reduce regulatory costs by as much as $163 billion for model years 2021 to 2029 and boost new vehicle sales by up to 2.7 million vehicles by 2029. The rule achieves this while also increasing safety and affordability for American families.

Another key reform is our comprehensive update to the Department’s “hours of service” rules by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This revision of overly prescriptive and onerous restrictions will reduce regulatory costs by nearly $274 million annually and provide much-needed relief and flexibility for our nation’s truckers.

The future of our country’s economy depends, in no small part, upon federal departments and agencies taking a hard look at their regulatory agendas and modernizing their rulemaking practices.

The reforms achieved under this administration are an important step forward, demonstrating a new level of commitment to modernization, growth, and global competitiveness. They are key to ensuring that our country is not left behind in the global race for transportation and infrastructure innovation.

Elaine L. Chao is secretary of the United States Department of Transportation. 

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