U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao made a significant announcement at the South by Southwest Conference on March 12th, revealing that the Department will attempt to better accommodate modern infrastructure solutions through a council of cross-modal DOT leaders. The council, called the Non-Traditional and Emerging Transportation Technology (NETT) Council, will be tasked with “identifying and resolving jurisdictional and regulatory gaps that may impede the deployment of new technology, such as tunneling, hyperloop, autonomous vehicles, and other innovations”, according to an official DOT statement.
Hyperloop Technology is cross-modal and presents a modern regulatory challenge for DOT, which is setup to regulate infrastructure in traditional terms (railroads, aviation, highways, etc.). Since Hyperloop appears to fit the legal definition of several infrastructure modes, it could fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and/or Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration just to name a few.
“The NETT Council will address these challenges by ensuring that the traditional modal silos at DOT do not impede the deployment of new technology. Furthermore, it will give project sponsors a single point of access to discuss plans and proposals.”, the DOT said.
Heartland Hyperloop looks forward to learning how project sponsors and interested parties will be empowered to provide input to the council following their organizational meetings. This input will be critical to ensuring a thorough review of DOT modal regulations while providing regulatory stability and confidence to innovators in America’s transportation sector.
The council, chaired by Deputy DOT Secretary Jeffrey Rosen, held its first meeting on March 14th and discussed several topics, including tunneling and Hyperloop. Rosen, who has been with the Department in his role as Deputy Secretary since 2017, has been nominated by President Trump to serve as Deputy Attorney General in the Department of Justice. It is unclear when his name will officially be submitted to the U.S. Senate for confirmation, but when that occurs it is expected that Derek Kan, the DOT Under Secretary for Transportation Policy and NETT Council Vice-Chair, will begin leading the council.