Last week, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to heads of State DOTs across the country advising that, with the Highway Trust Fund heading toward insolvency as early as August, we will soon be forced to implement cash management procedures —including delayed reimbursement for hundreds of road projects that employ thousands of workers.
To show readers how this funding crisis will touch their everyday lives, we’re turning over the Fast Lane to Mayors and Governors across the country this week, who are working on the frontlines to manage the possible consequences of a shortfall. Each morning this week, we're featuring guest-authored posts illustrating how all Americans will be affected if the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to dip below zero.
We hope you find them as compelling as we do.
The building, rebuilding, and repair of highways and bridges throughout the United States is heading toward a dramatic slowdown –perhaps even a complete halt– this summer. The Federal Highway Trust Fund, source of federal transportation funding for all the states, will run out of money in late August, and Congress has not figured out a way to save it.
To understand what this means --and why it is bad news for every American-- one needs to understand how we as a nation build and maintain the streets, roads, and bridges we depend on every day. Ours is a national system that carries the life blood we know as daily commerce, the moving of people and goods to homes, schools, work sites, and travel destinations.
Nowhere is it more important than in my home state, Kentucky, where motor-vehicle manufacturing, freight movement, agricultural exports, and tourism are pillars of our economy.
Simply put, this immensely valuable system would not be possible without the support of the Federal Highway Administration and funding through the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
The very busy Interstate 95 corridor serves as a major travel route for millions of Americans each year. Soon, families will be traveling through this area for well-deserved vacations, and we want them to arrive at their destinations and back home again safely.
Along one segment of this heavily traveled corridor, four states have come together to fix a deadly safety problem. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, see 13 percent of the nation’s fatal truck and bus related crashes. These states believe --and I agree-- that we must do better.
That's why, earlier this week, I traveled to Port Wentworth, Georgia, to kick-off a tremendous safety partnership called Operation Safe DRIVE occurring this week along a 900-mile stretch of Interstate 95...
As readers might recall, I'm sort of the product of a transportation business. My great-grandfather, Pete Kelly, was a trucker who put 13 kids through college--including my grandmother. So, I am where I am today because, for Pete Kelly, that truck was a key rung on the ladder of opportunity.
Now, Pete Kelly may have lived more than half a century ago, but the same route that he took toward the American Dream is still wide open to our nation's entrepreneurs. Transportation can still be a way up, into the middle class and beyond.
Especially when you’re helping build that transportation. At the Department of Transportation, we work to make sure everyone has access to this kind of opportunity.
Yesterday, I was in Texas with Secretary Foxx to celebrate big changes in the way we handle air traffic in and out of the four Houston-area airports.
These improvements are part of the FAA’s NextGen program, one of the largest --although not so visible-- public-works projects in our lifetime. NextGen transforms our radar-based air traffic control system to a more efficient satellite-based system.
The accuracy of satellite navigation allows us to completely redesign the airspace around what we call "metroplexes," multi-airport metropolitan areas like Houston. These redesigns promise significant savings of time and fuel...
Today, we commemorate motorcoach travel’s prominent place in our nation’s transportation network for the past century.
One hundred years ago, Carl Eric Wickman, a Swedish immigrant and drill operator laid-off from Minnesota's iron ore mines, began a modest bus service to take miners from Hibbing to nearby Alice, a town known for its saloons. He charged 15 cents a ride in a Hupmobile. A year later, Wickman joined forces with a similar service running between Hibbing and Duluth. In its first year, the Mesaba Transportation Company earned an $8,000 profit, and American intercity bus travel was born.
The American passenger carrier industry has grown considerably since then. Today, motorcoach travel provides mobility and connectivity for millions of Americans and helps us meet our enormous energy and environmental challenges. The drivers operating these vehicles help ensure that motorcoach travel is a safe way for Americans to get where they need to go...
Today, as we've been doing each month since January, the Department of Transportation updated our Highway Trust Fund tickers. The tickers are charts showing how much money we have left to spend on roads, bridges, and transit --and how quickly it is running out.
If you've been reading the Fast Lane this spring, you know that our budget analysts have projected a shortfall in the Highway Account before we reach the end of this fiscal year. So far, all of their monthly predictions have been on target, and this month was no different. Unfortunately, that accuracy is not good news, because it means we're still expecting a shortfall as early as August.
In a challenging legislative environment, that doesn't give us a lot of time...
For decades, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, has been preparing leaders for service in the Merchant Marine, our Armed Forces, and other transportation careers.
Several years ago, the Department of Transportation pledged to restore Kings Point as a jewel among America’s five service academies. And the academy's new training vessel, Kings Pointer --which we rechristened yesterday-- is one sign that--together--we are working together to make good on that pledge.
Of course, we did more than simply rename the former NASA vessel. It returns to us having undergone a $3.3 million retrofit that makes it a true state-of-the-art training vessel for the midshipmen of Kings Point.
Jan Helis smashes a bottle of champagne against the prow of the newly rechristened T/V Kings Pointer
There are other signs that we're making good on that pledge, too. Because a lot has changed on the campus in a very short amount of time...
Over the weekend the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul celebrated completion of the Central Corridor light rail line, the single largest public works project in the history of Minnesota. The new route --known now as the METRO Green Line-- links the cities along one of the most heavily traveled corridors in the region and will significantly improve access to jobs and other opportunities for thousands of residents.
A project like the METRO Green Line doesn't happen without cooperation and coordination, and this one was made possible by an extraordinary partnership among state, county, city, and federal governments as well as local organizations and community members.
Ribbon-cutting for the METRO Green Line; photo courtesy Pioneer Press / John Autey
The Obama Administration is proud to have provided nearly $480 million that has created thousands of good jobs for construction workers in Minnesota building this long-awaited link.
And not only does the new line connect people to opportunities--like jobs and education--it will also save them time spent in traffic and money spent at the gas pump...
The I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware, is tilting. If you're reading this in Miami or in Maine, you may think that's too bad for folks in Wilmington, and you may wish the Delaware DOT all the best in fixing it. But it affects you, too.
Because for trucks and cars heading to and from Philadelphia and other points, I-495 provides a key route around downtown Wilmington on the already-congested I-95, the east coast's primary north-south Interstate. It also provides access to and from the Port of Wilmington. And until the Christina Bridge is repaired and reopened, freight—and people--traveling through the mid-Atlantic region on I-95 are likely to encounter significant delays.
At the bridge site in Wilmington. Photos courtesy office of U.S. Senator Tom Carper.
The good news is that we have already begun helping DelDOT by providing $2 million in emergency funding to get started. And our team at the Federal Highway Administration is standing ready to help.
But America has much more infrastructure that needs to be repaired --and much more infrastructure that needs to be built-- than we have dollars available...
The U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) is constantly working to foster safety and security in the maritime industry, both domestically and internationally. Recently, at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Maritime Security Seminar, I had an opportunity to collaborate and strengthen communication with our transatlantic maritime partners and share solutions on current maritime security issues and threats.
The NATO Ocean Shipping Transport Group discussions tackled both old and new threats, and MARAD remains fully engaged in meeting these challenges, particularly piracy...