The head of the country’s transportation system said she is hopeful the industry will rebound from the impact of the pandemic.
"I'm optimistic that travel will return,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said.
Our Washington Bureau spoke one-on-one virtually with Chao.
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“What do you expect the future of transportation to look like? For example, do you think facial coverings would become a requirement for mass transit and air travel?” Washington Correspondent Samantha Manning asked.
"Well, I think in the short term it's good practice for everyone,” Chao said. “But I would hope that in the long term as we conquer this COVID-19 crisis, that we'll resume our usual lives again."
All major airlines are requiring passengers to wear facial coverings.
“Are there any efforts underway by the DOT and any of the agencies under the department to issue regulations or guidance when it comes to either workers in transportation or just consumers and passengers who use transportation systems because of COVID-19?” Manning asked.
“We will always protect the interest of the consumer,” Chao responded. “Everybody is in a fragile state right now because of the financial difficulties that we’re all facing. Airlines are having a difficult time. Transit is having a difficult time. Railroads, passenger rail is having a difficult time.”
Some state transportation departments are expecting to face major budget shortfalls because there is less money coming in from road tolls and fuel tax.
States like North Carolina announced major transportation projects have been delayed as a result.
“Are delays and cancellations inevitable in some cases just because of the economic impact we've been seeing?" Manning asked.
"No we've been actually keeping on our mission very much focused,” Chao said. “Our mission at the U.S. Department of Transportation is to keep the transportation system operative and safe."
As the economy reopens, Chao said she expects the highways to see the first major resurgence of travelers.
"People will feel more safe in their car and so they'll begin to get out more and we'll see more traffic on the highways,” Chao said.
Chao also announced new changes for the trucking industry Thursday giving more flexibility with their operating hours.
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