Season 2, Episode 1
Announcer: [00:00:00] The following research is part of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction funded by the United States Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Center program. Learn more at www.nicr.usf.edu.
Wayne Garcia: Welcome to Out of My Lane, a podcast of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida and Tampa. I'm Wayne Garcia, your host. We have a special episode for you as we start off season two. I'm joined by Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared Perdue. Mr. Secretary, welcome to Out of My Lane.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Thank you, Wayne. Thanks for having me. Really an honor to be here and anytime I get to talk transportation and talk about the things that, that I'm passionate about and that we're passionate about in our industry, it's exciting. So, thanks.
Wayne Garcia: Secretary Perdue was appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis on April 7th, 2022, just in time for a robust hurricane season, of course. As Secretary, he oversees the lead agency in state government, which has the statutory responsibility to coordinate the planning and development of a safe, viable, and balanced transportation system serving all regions of the state. Secretary Perdue received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and he's married to his beautiful wife, Brandis.
Am I getting that right?
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: That's correct.
Wayne Garcia: And they have five daughters. And, I suspect that there's a podcast in there, but that's a whole 'nother episode. Again, thank you so much for joining us. We start all our guests with an icebreaker, of sorts. Tell us about your daily commute.
What is that like? I know you're all over the state, so there's probably no average daily commute, but, when you're going from your house to your office there in Tallahassee what's that commute like?
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: [00:02:00] Wayne, thank you. this has become a rather interesting question for me now in this role, because as part of serving in this role as Secretary, there's obviously a need to be in many places throughout the week and throughout the state.
We have an extremely diverse state. Geographically, culturally, our communities are diverse, and so we have a diversity of needs that we're, and a diversity of people that we're serving throughout the state. And so that really takes me to all corners, edges of the state on, I would say a weekly, monthly basis.
And so, I would almost describe it like this. I don't really have a daily commute anymore. Tallahassee is certainly the capital of Florida. It's where my home office is and our Central Office resides there in Tallahassee, but it's also [00:03:00] within one of our districts. It's within the Panhandle District, which is District Three.
We have seven districts and the turnpike enterprise, and you know, we're delivering major infrastructure across the state. So that takes me at all places. So, you know, at any point in time during the week or month, there's a various number of different places I need to be. Part of that is one of the things that I find most valuable about this role is really connecting with our communities.
And in order to connect with communities and connect with people, you have to be there in person. So, my daily commute is now one that is more or less unpredictable. I wouldn't say that I have a normal daily commute anymore and I'm really enjoying that part of it so far.
Wayne Garcia: Well, that's great and I would expect nothing less.
I know you talked about your heavy travel schedule, previously when I saw you speak late last year. So, you and the Department and all the people of Florida have gone through some [00:04:00] major tests of rapid response here, and I want to get to those hurricanes in just a bit. But let's start with your journey to this role as Secretary of the DOT. Tell us about your career and how you got into this field.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Absolutely, Wayne. So, what I'll first do is I'm going back up to just when I graduated high school. So there, I kind of had a twofold desire or goal when I graduated high school. One was to play college football, the other was to get an engineering degree. I was an offensive lineman in high school and little bit under sized, you know, finding a college to play football at that also offered an engineering program was difficult. And so, what I ended up doing was sitting out of school for year training for football. And going, going to college [00:05:00] part-time until I could find a place to go.
I ended up working on a survey crew. Little did I know my career was going to take me into transportation, but I, I was on a survey crew for that year and that was my first exposure to doing some of the work that's needed to deliver infrastructure, but ultimately ended up going to The Citadel. I walked on there. I played offensive line. I became a left tackle actually. So, I was probably one of the smallest Division One left tackles, at that time The Citadel was Division One AA, and I was a lot bigger back then and so I walked on, ended up earning a scholarship, started for three years and at the same time was, was getting my engineering degree. The interesting thing about The Citadel is you, you as a cadet, you have to graduate in four years. So not only was I playing football, I was taking, you know, 20 plus credit hours a semester. So, you can imagine the busy schedule to [00:06:00] include the military life as well. So anyways, that, that was a great opportunity to build a foundation and help shape me into who I am today.
But, but at the same time, I had a professor there that knew of the Florida Department of Transportation and was very impressed with this organization and with the industry in Florida and actually was really fond of the what we have a professional engineer training program and you know, from his perspective, you know, if you're leaving college and going into a role, there's nothing better than entering into that professional engineer training program as an engineer, as a potential engineer because it gives you exposure to all of the different aspects of the transportation industry and really helps shape where your career is going to go for, for the next many years.
And so and so, I ended up applying for a job as, as an engineer trainee, moved back home to the panhandle. I was born in Panama City, [00:07:00] so I am a native and I went to college in South Carolina. So, I moved back home and worked for many years in our District Three headquarters in Chipley, Florida. To those of, for those of you who don't know, it's, it's almost due north of Panama City, probably about an hour north, the north side of I-10.
It's a very rural area, but it's a good location for the District Headquarters and the panhandle because the District spans the entire panhandle. So, I actually worked most of my career there. Started as an engineer trainee, then became a geotechnical engineer working on foundations, both in design and construction.
Actually did that for several years, and I loved that job. I absolutely loved it, but I found myself one day and, and many of us do this in our career and our growth, I found myself one, reflecting on how much I did enjoy my job, but also at the same time beginning to think about what's next. And so that, you know, that desire, [00:08:00] that ambition that we have for a challenge and for continued growth.
And so, I found myself, while I love my job, and I, and I love this organization and it's been a, a great experience so far, I'm ready for a new challenge and so what's next? And so just like many of our very talented professionals as, as they grow in their career, they reach that point. And that's one of the things that's kind of shaped some of my viewpoints as a manager and a leader.
And so I began to look for other opportunities. I was offered an opportunity then to be Interim District Maintenance engineer in District Three. And I really enjoyed that role. I did it for about nine months. Then had an opportunity to compete for and was successful, with the district traffic operations engineer.
So, I went from, from Geotech and foundations to a stint in maintenance and then ultimately into traffic operations, which was a whole ‘nother [00:09:00] field of engineering. I did that for four years and, you know, tremendously thankful for the team in that traffic operations office and what they taught me and how they helped me grow.
And then, I moved on to become the district design engineer. So, I went from traffic operations to design and ultimately moved into the director of development role in District Three, which reports directly to the district secretary. That role is responsible for work, program, and finance. Right away acquisition design and all of the, the modes intersect, so our intermodal systems, environmental office and planning.
So, did that for roughly about four years, and so that's where I've served out, you know, most of my career at DOT and, and I have spent my whole career there. And it has been a truly rewarding experience. One of the things I've learned is [00:10:00] I've advanced. It's one is serving in, in a various array of roles with different responsibilities and different areas of expertise has really helped diversify my view of this agency and this industry, and really how all the pieces and parts work together. So, I've, I've found it to be very valuable. The other thing that I've learned is that the success of myself and any individual is heavily reliant on the people that you're surrounded by on a daily basis.
And so, I've learned to appreciate and value all of the individuals on the team that I'm surrounded by every day, because that's really truly how this organization is successful, how this industry is successful, and also me as a person. So, after being a Director in District Three, I moved on to be the District Secretary in District Five.
So, I went from the panhandle to Central Florida. I'm, I'm here to tell you that those two [00:11:00] regions of the state are very different.
Wayne Garcia: yes.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: And so, I would say that helped diversify me as a person, as a leader. The culture in our industry, the culture in DOT is very consistent across the state, but the communities that we serve are extremely diverse and, and I found that moving from the Panhandle to Central Florida is different, needs, different visions of where to go. Different cultural backgrounds, historic backgrounds, and, and it changes the way that we deliver infrastructure, the way we talk about projects and the way we serve our customers.
And I've even learned that even more as Secretary, like travel in the state. That's one of the things that makes us so strong here in Florida is truly the, the diversity of our communities, of our geography. And it, it's really something I've, I've learned to value. So, I was the District Five Secretary for, nearly three years, I think.
And, and our previous secretary, Kevin Thibault has, [00:12:00] is now the CEO at Orlando International Airport, did a tremendous job while he was here. And so, he, and when he moved on, then this role became open and extremely honored, proud, thankful that Governor DeSantis, selected me for this role and appointed me to this role.
Having, having been someone that came up through the organization and, and is shaped by the culture that we have in our industry, the relationships that that, that I have and, and that we've built over the years, it, it makes me proud, you know, and humbled to, to serve in this role. And this team is just one that, that I'm extremely grateful to be on.
Wayne Garcia: And I, you know, I think that, that, understanding of all of the aspects of transportation that, FDOT handles, you know, really showed in the, in the hurricane matters that we're going to talk about in just a little bit. So, when, when you get the [00:13:00] nod from the Governor, what do you, what do you develop as your guiding vision for the department?
So, that's kind of a multifaceted question. I mean, obviously one is the Governor has a very strong vision for where the state needs to go. I mean, he's provided very clear and concise leadership and, and Florida, you know, our population is growing rapidly and we're, we're probably going to talk about that a little bit later.
But, you know, he, he is, he has a very strong vision for continuing to improve safety and relieve congestion. and bring the infrastructure to fruition that's needed to continue growing our economy, but also preserve the things that people love about Florida. And so, and so, you know, you build a vision around that.
But at the same time, we have such a tremendous culture in our industry here in Florida. You know, taking that culture and that team and, and building an environment where we [00:14:00] can, first of all recognize, appreciate, tell the story of who we are and what we do, but at the same time build on that.
You know, so take that foundation and build on it and make it stronger, better. So, we do things faster, more efficiently, we get better. We bring the team closer together and we continued to rise, you know, to the occasion as new challenges are presented and so really that's what develops that vision because I'm so closely connected to our industry and our team.
You know, one of my goals is to bring people in our industry together and to get a line behind a common set of goals, common set of values, and a common vision, because that's really where our power is. It's in when people get aligned, you know, and regardless of the things that we disagree on, there's, we can always find something that we agree, and that's where the real power in our industry comes from. And you saw that, [00:15:00] in, in emergency response. And so and so we're continuing to grow that vision. We're adapting. And as new members come onto our team, you know, we're continuing to grow and adapt and build that vision, and really catapult us to, to new heights, based on the culture that we already have.
Wayne Garcia: So, you mentioned emergency response, and so let, let's just get right to the horrible storm that was Ian. Set us up for, you know, take us back to last fall and, you know, help walk us through, first off, you know, what happened, how the department prepared, and then the response that was very much in the public eye. It was in, you know, media all over the country and the world.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Yeah, sure, Wayne. So, and thank you for allowing me to, to tell this story because I do. I do love telling the story because I'm proud to [00:16:00] be a Floridian. I'm proud to be on this team and part of this industry, but at the same time, you know, major hurricanes are devastating to our communities.
They're, they're very tragic, and, and with that comes loss of, of property, valuable things, valuable people, loss of life. And so, you know, we're very sensitive to that. But at, at the same time, it's, it's important when, when disaster strikes any community that we, we start the road to recovery very quickly.
And, and so we at DOT played a, a big part of that and so, yeah, you know, Hurricane Ian was nearly a Category Five hurricane. It was a major hurricane, and it was very devastating for the southwest coast. And also, it, it caused pretty devastating impacts inland with flooding because of rainfall intensity, but then also it curved around and hit the East coast and, and inflicted, some pretty [00:17:00] significant damage on the East coast.
And, and what made that so, so challenging was that then it was followed by Hurricane Nicole, you know, the East coast had already been kind of battered by, by Ian, and then Nicole comes in and so then it wreaked havoc and created a lot of devastation on the East coast. So, we've been responding to hurricanes for years.
This is just something that the state of Florida has to deal with and so never imagined that we would have, we would be dealing with major hurricanes in my first six or seven months as secretary. But at the same time, I've lived through many of them, and I've worked many of them in several different roles here at DOT.
And actually I lived through one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in our history, Hurricane Michael, when it hit the panhandle, I still lived just north of Panama City, and so that very much had a, a personal impact for me and so it, but it makes, it makes me that much more focused on the response and the [00:18:00] recovery because I realize just how important it is.
And I want to start by saying, you know, and I'm going to talk about how we prepare, but I, I do want to begin by saying that responding to emergencies under Governor DeSantis' leadership is, is something that has been, I would say extremely rewarding because he, he is, he gives clear, concise direction and he's very committed to every single Floridian, helping them recover and helping people in their time of need. And so, it created an environment where all of the state agencies could come together and work as a team, including the leadership of, of Kevin Guthrie, our division of Emergency Management Director, I, I'm not sure that I've ever seen state agencies work so closely together.
You know, tear down the barriers that divide, you heard the Governor say many times, cut through the red tape and, and just get a line behind what our mission is and work together. And it was, it was very powerful, as you saw. So, so here, [00:19:00] you know, when we're getting ready for an emergency and, and I'm going to specifically speak to hurricanes, we go through a series of, of strategic planning, staging and preparing people, equipment, resources for whatever may occur.
This is actually a very big logistical challenge because even as you saw Hurricane Ian, sometimes you don't know the path of the storm until like just within a day of impact. And so, you know, we immediately begin, even a week out, we immediately begin having coordination calls across the state to prepare our statewide resources and stage people in strategic locations make sure we have the equipment that we need in strategic locations, getting ready to, to facilitate evacuations because that's one of the, the biggest [00:20:00] efforts leading up to the impact of a storm is making sure people can safely get out. And, and also moving those resources around those people around as the storm path shifts so that they can be in a place where they're out of harm's way, but at the same time can be on scene ground zero immediately after impact. So, we have, we have a super important mission when it comes to, to the storm response. I mean, transportation facilities become like your number one asset because that's how search and rescue first responders and needed supplies get to and from wherever they need to go.
And so, so we immediately deploy crews and equipment to go clear roads and assess damage and if, if there's damage then come up with a plan to quickly address it. And so, in order to be able to respond to those things quickly, we have to stage those resources before the storm. And so, it's a pretty significant effort in terms of facilitating evacuation, you know, watching that storm's path [00:21:00] and, and making sure that our facilities are, are ready to handle the influx of traffic that comes with evacuations is extremely important.
And so, we go through that we actually in, in the off season, outside of storm season, we actually go through drills so that we stay, I would say stay warm and ready, you know?
Wayne Garcia: Yeah.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: And so that helps us be prepared and it's a statewide coordinated effort that we take very seriously.
Wayne Garcia: And a complex one because yeah, as you said, there's so many moving pieces and you don't have to worry just about the aftermath. You got to worry about the present and all these cars streaming, east, north, you know, whichever way, to get out of there. So, of course the high-profile fixes were the bridges that got destroyed in Hurricane Ian And again, as you said, then you can't get, you know, food, relief, water, [00:22:00], emergency care, those kind of things, out to, you know, some of those barrier islands, or islands. Pine Island I think was one. And you know, of course the, the others down there. So, we're all looking, as the public, we're all looking at the damage to some of these bridges and we're like, "Oh my God, these people, they're, you know, they're not going to be able to, that's, that's years of rebuilding a bridge." so, talk about those bridges. How'd y'all pull that off? Because it did not take years.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: That's exactly right. And this, this is an incredible success story. And I want to start with the fact that, and this, this again, is going to speak to, to how instrumental the Governor's leadership was. Something that, that, you know, it’s first important to point out is that the causeways... so, so the two causeways that were damaged, one was going to [00:23:00] Pine Island, the other was going to Sanabal Island. These are two very important barrier islands in Southwest Florida. Both of them, you know, have thousands and thousands of people and that live there, work there, you know, and so there were a lot of people on those islands as the storm passed through and after the storm hit that were stranded out there.
And so, one of the things that that's unique about this is both of those causeways and those transportation facilities, one of those islands were actually not state roads. They were local roads. And so, you know, this, this is where and I really need to speak to this because it's important is, is where you, a lot of times in the public sector, you know, you would spend weeks maybe even debating about jurisdiction authority, who's going to do what, how you're going to...
Wayne Garcia: Yeah. Is Lee County going to do it? Is, you know, is the city's going to do it? Yeah.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: And because of the partnerships and relationships that we have, but also because of the [00:24:00] governor's vision for, you know, helping the communities in need, we were able to, to come in, sit down with Lee County and say, "Hey, Lee County, do, do you need help?"
And you know, they adamantly [said], "Yes, we have so much to do!" I mean, they were dealing with water, power, sewer, you know, people stranded. And so, they had all these operations going on and, and, and so we, we sat down talking to 'em like, "Yes, please. We, we could use the help." And so, we immediately worked with Lee County, began to develop a plan and jump into action. No, never, never even questioned jurisdictional authority. Right? That's, this is where it's the power of people coming together. And so, so we were able to, to jump into action immediately and start developing a plan and, you know, resiliency is something really important. And so, I usually work this into the story because we, we've been doing resiliency for years and resiliency for our coastal communities is really important. One of the reasons why we were able to so quickly jump into action to help Lee County with their facilities is because a lot of our state [00:25:00] infrastructure was essentially unharmed because as, as we've rebuilt bridges and roads over the years, we've built resiliency into them. And so, you know, what you see is there are still some vulnerable, vulnerable facilities.
But in this case, for this storm in the county, you know, that vulnerability was with these two causeways going to these barrier islands. So, so we immediately began to develop a plan. And I'll tell you, Wayne, I, I can't even, I, I can't even begin to, to count the number of people that were probably involved with the plan we developed.
It was, it was DOT people. It was, it was Lee County people. FHWA was at the table the whole time, you know, even some people there in the community helped in various ways. And we had, we had also resources from all over helping us develop what that plan was going to look like. Because immediately after a storm, you know, one of the first things you do is have to assess the damage so that you know what it's going to take to fix it.
And this, this [00:26:00] was one of the challenges because these causeways were just completely wiped out. There was just so many unknowns and, and so like trying to develop a plan was, was a real challenge. And so, we, we had a lot of help and assistance, very appreciative of that. And so, so we started developing a plan.
I'll start with Pine Island. So, you know what, what many people and even myself thought was going to take weeks, maybe even a few months to repair Pine Island. And you got to think about the causeway going to Pine Island. It actually was like a small island. I mean, there were businesses and homes there that got, that got destroyed and, and the land went with it, right?
And, just developing a plan in the logistics of, of how we're going to rebuild this was very complex and, and so what some thought was, was going to take weeks, perhaps even months. We ended up doing it in just three days, so we entered into emergency contract. The contractor mobilized every [00:27:00] last resource they could get out there, but we realized that that still wasn't enough.
And so, we actually ended up combining our own FDOT forces with the contractor, so we were running, I think moving, we were moving dirt with about 60 dump trucks around the clock 24/7 because we had to move a lot of dirt. The logistics of that were very complicated and so we had our very own FDOT dump trucks and FDOT employees working alongside the contractor to make this happen.
So, they ended up finishing that causeway in just three days. I mean, it was truly incredible. And what even ended up happening is the community and the people around that were watching this progress were so excited, so energized, they actually began to even offer assistance to the people that were out there working.
You know, it's truly amazing to see how people come together. And we were able to, to push a convoy of Publix trucks across that causeway in just three days. Also, we took a lot of supplies, ice and water to those communities, [00:28:00] incredibly grateful. And we, we were able, literally able to reunite husbands and wives, you know, parents, children, families that are waiting to see each other and, and really facilitate the movement of, of the goods.
And, and really, you know, one of the critical things that, and, and you see in times like this, just how truly important transportation infrastructure is, is getting other restoration people and equipment over to the island was just as important to get the power turned back on and the water flow and then the sewer working.
So, so that, that was a big deal. So, we finished, finished that in three days then, you know, to move on to the Sanibel Island Causeway, this one was much more complicated. There are actually several bridges on that causeway and there's several connecting land masses and we essentially, you know, had to rebuild small islands and, we, because of the, the complexity of it, we actually decided to use an innovative contracting method known as a progressive design build. [00:29:00] just because of all the unknowns. We just didn't know what all needed to be done. And so, we took a new, a new innovative contracting technique that we really haven't used a lot and ended up preparing contract docents, advertising, and awarding in a three-day time span. So, you, you think about that, I mean, usually to…
Wayne Garcia: Advertise, right? Yeah. It takes months to pull those specs together alone.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Yeah. And so, you know, but you, you bring people together in a room, and there were, I'm sure there were probably hundreds of people involved with that from DOT employees to consultants making sure that we were covering all the bases.
But what one of the things we realized as we were going through that procurement and this, the successful bidder they, they also submitted time and the initial schedule for when they believed they could get the calls we repaired, and back open traffic was going to be Thanksgiving. And so here we were going into, you know, early October, and looking at Thanksgiving and, you know, we knew, and I knew just looking at that was not going to be fast enough, [00:30:00] especially with the Governor's expectations.
I definitely didn't want to share that timeframe with him. So, we got the team together and like, "Hey, we've got to go faster. How can we figure out a way to go faster?" And so, everybody put their heads together. And this is something very unique because of the, the complexity of the project, the scope of the project, and the need for resources.
We actually ended up deciding to enter into two contracts with two joint venture teams on the same project, working in the same space. , and, and so this, this is unheard of, but it speaks to the, the strength and power of the relationships in our industry and, not only that, we did not fully have known what the scope of the project was going to be.
So, we asked these two teams to get in a room together and figure out how they were going to accomplish the task at hand and do it faster. And that...
Wayne Garcia: That just sounds crazy for any kind of, you know, regular project. Right. It, it, it would be like, we don't know if this is going to happen, but these folks pulled it off.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: They, they sure did. They got in a [00:31:00] room and, again, I'm going to keep going back to this theme. You know, you get people aligned behind a common mission, common goal. The sky is truly the limit. And so, they, they got in a room, they sat down, they hammered out, they figured out how this was going to work, and they came back and said, "Guess what? We've got a plan. This is how we can do it and we can finish by the end of October." And so, you know, that was initially, that was a very exciting moment because we were beginning to see kind of light at the end of the tunnel. And at the same time, you know, you got to think that as search and rescue and first responders were working and they were trying to get all of these people and equipment out the island, they were having to use air and sea, like barging.
And you think about how slow that operation is because you can only move so many vehicles, so many people at one time. And so, they were trying to get stuff out there as quickly as they could. But this, this roadway leading to, to Santa Island really became like the major focal point, and so, so they, they came together, we began to work.
We, [00:32:00] we set up a very unique project structure. We had our own very own FDOT employees living on the project site, and we set up like an apex of sorts for decision making. You know, usually when you reach critical decision points on projects in major infrastructure like you, you get all these other people involved.
It circulates, it goes through reviews, and sometimes they can take months to make a decision. And we set up a decision-making matrix with and Katie Sheard was leading it. She was our project manager on site from District One. And, and I'm really proud of, of how they kind of established this. But basically, the direction was no decision leads the project site.
And so, the team would bring complex issues or critical decision points. They would huddle up in a room, they would evaluate, you know, they would have all the expertise available to them and then they would make a decision on the spot and keep the work moving and this, this is a, this was a very innovative way to approach this cause that's just not the [00:33:00] normal way of doing business on, on major projects.
And so, so it worked well. So, hey, they, they started working, I believe at, at one point, I think they had three dredging operations trying to move dirt from the bay. And at the same time, I think we had over 80 dump trucks that were hauling day in, day out, working 24/7. And as they begin to work, we saw that, you know, while the road may not be ready to open the traffic, we might have it to a place where you could actually push, a convoy of power restoration vehicles, people and equipment over which, which had become a really critical focus because it was just so slow getting them over there, you know, moving just a few power trucks at a time by barge.
it was just taking a lot of time. And so that became a big focus. And, and so we began, the team began working and seeing they were making progress and there was a, a huge [00:34:00] moment of, of excitement when we realized, you know what, we might be able to push a convoy over. And so, through the leadership of, of division of emergency management, the governor, we, we were able to coordinate this massive convoy, hundreds of power restoration vehicle.
to cross the causeway after just, seven days of construction. Incredible. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. So, you, you look at this project and, and, and, you know, any of the experts in our field, and even myself looking at the damage to sand causeway, I was thinking, you know, it could take four to six months to repair this.
And, and our industry came together. Our team came together, found a way to do it faster. But not only did they set an aggressive schedule by end of October, or they were able to push this convoy of power restoration vehicles across the causeway in just seven days. And I, I've even had some, some of the utility professionals tell me that that accelerated the power restoration by weeks.
And so, you think about what that means for these people that live on this island and, and the [00:35:00] recovery for them… truly monumental it, it was a very proud. And so, but we continued working, so that was a one-time convoy. Then we had to close it back down. It was not ready for traffic. I mean, we, it was, they had to move slow.
We had, it was a very confined area, but we got 'em across. And so, then we immediately went back to work. And as we continued working, we, we noticed that our schedule continued to, to advance. And it really speaks to the dedication of, of our contractors, our consultants, and our DOT employees, like just out there 24/7 finding ways to get it done.
I mean, they were functioning on very little sleep, because they, they truly had an important mission that they all bought into and, and so, and so we ended up finishing the Sanibel Island Causeway repairs in just 15 days. So, think about that. We were looking at it initially saying, "Wow, this could take four to six months," and we finished in just 15 days. [00:36:00] Truly remarkable.
Wayne Garcia: So, is there a lesson in this amazing case study for the rest of state government, for other states to look at? What, what do you take away from this that you're going, "Hey, we need to do this all the time?"
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Yeah, that's actually a great question. You know, and emergencies are unique because you know, what ends up happening is in order to respond to that emergency, you draw from and pull resources from all over the state. And so, it's one of those situations where everybody makes themselves available, every individual, every resource, every piece of equipment, regardless of what the need is, everybody makes themselves available to meet whatever the need is. And so, you know, this is unique about emergencies because that's not, you can't do business like that every day because you, you know, you've got to keep those resources allocated across the, the entire state to move things forward.
But, but at the same time, there are a lot of lessons learned. And, I'm going to [00:37:00] go back to this thing because one of the biggest takeaways for me is in everyday life, you know, we find things that, you know, sometimes we're passionate about that we believe we have opinions, and a lot of times we find ourselves working through challenging issues and we, we are confronted with a lot of things that we may have disagreements on as people, right?
And this is just normal in the course of everyday business. But one of the things that, that I think we can certainly learn from is the power and the potential that lies within people and individuals aligning themselves behind a common set of goals, common set of values. And so even if, even if you and I come together and there's things we disagree on, why don't we take time to, to figure out what are those things we agree on?
Let's get a line behind those things and then let's, let's put the power, the horsepower, the moment of, of our own efforts and our own energy into those things. that's when you truly [00:38:00] accomplish new heights. And I think that's what helped conceive and birth all of the innovative processes and things that helped us speed these projects.
Now on a project level basis, there's a lot of opportunities there. And, and as I mentioned, you know, Governor DeSantis was, he, he was very clear on cutting through the red tape, finding those efficiencies and ways to be better. And, and so we did that. And there there's a lot of takeaways from that, you know, cutting out some of the, the unnecessary back and forth that adds so much time to decision making help because we still built a quality product.
It's going to be quality for many years to come. That's that same team is right now planning what the ultimate permanent repairs are going to be like. And, and the temporary repairs are such high quality. It's like a good base and a good foundation. They're just going to be able to. And so, you know, we cut out all the back and forth and all the time it takes for all these review processes and made all the decisions on site and still [00:39:00] built a quality product.
And so, you know, there's, there's a lot of potential lessons in there, but, but really, it's more on the, for me, more on the behavior human side of it is, you know, you get people in a room, you get a line behind, you know, something you can all agree on. And it is truly powerful.
Wayne Garcia: That is great... we're, we're going to wrap up here, and I'm just going to ask you, what can, Floridians look to from the Florida Department of Transportation? Do you have a top priority or something that's going to be a theme in 2023 for them?
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: We sure do, Wayne. One of the things that I'll mention is we, we've developed sort of a compass. We've been doing infrastructure for years, but at the same time, it's important that our infrastructure connects with those things that are very important to our communities.
And so, and I'm going to go through those, and this is something I've learned just listening around the state. Resiliency is a very big priority. Safety, big priority, [00:40:00] technology, and where we're headed with technology, this is something very important to our community. Workforce development actually has become, a really big focus in communities and, and the jobs that, that we facilitate, that we create in our industry are a big part of that. So, workforce development is, is a big focus of ours, but at the center of that is, really and truly, Florida communities. And so, so we, we view communities as the center of kind of our, our compass. And these are the things that our, our infrastructure is really going to be focusing in on and I'm, I'm very passionate about these things personally, especially safety.
I have a 16-year-old daughter that drives, and so transportation safety is a passion of mine. But at the same time, our infrastructure has a direct connection to all of these priorities that our communities have. And our communities in Florida truly are diverse and so we want to make sure that the infrastructure we deliver aligns with the goals, the vision, the character of the communities that we're [00:41:00] serving because that's one of the things that makes Florida so great. The biggest challenge we have right now with that infrastructure is that Florida in many areas is growing exponentially. We're seeing 30% pop annual population growth in many areas. This far exceeds the growth that is used to plan infrastructure.
Most infrastructure is planned on a 3% growth rate, and that's considered high. So, you're seeing many parts of Florida grow at 30%. And so, it's going to be really important that we continue to embrace these things that are important to our communities while we meet the challenge of delivering the infrastructure that's needed based on how fast we grow.
So, so it's, it's an exciting time and it's, I think we've got a lot of big things we're going to be accomplishing.
Wayne Garcia: I really appreciate you coming on Out of My Lane podcast, because I think not only the transportation folks who listen to this podcast, but even the public [00:42:00] really benefits from hearing your story and where we're all going. Secretary Jared Perdue of the Florida Department of Transportation. Thank you for joining.
FDOT Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E.: Thank you, Wayne. I really enjoyed it.
Wayne Garcia: Alright everybody, and we will see you season two of Out of My Lane. I'm Wayne Garcia, your host. Have a great day.
Announcer: The National Institute for Congestion Reduction, NICR is a transportation research center focused on innovative congestion strategies. The center is composed of researchers from the University of South Florida, the University of California, Berkeley. Texas A&M University and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and funded by the United States Department of Transportation.
For more information, please visit www.nicr.usf.edu.