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Yesterday, the Obama Administration invited communities to participate in the second round of Local Foods, Local Places, an initiative to build strong local food systems as part of strong local economies in rural communities.

Local Foods, Local Places provides direct technical support --agricultural, transportation, public health, environmental, and economic-- to local communities to help spur economic growth and improve the quality of life for all residents. 

At DOT, we support this initiative by working to ensure that local roads and transit services connect farmers, food businesses, markets, and residents...

Truck on rural bridge

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U.S. metropolitan areas generate 90 percent of the nation's GDP, house nearly 85 percent of the population, and move 70 percent of freight value traded across the country. And, our cities are only expected to grow even more, absorbing an estimated 66 million more people in the next 30 years. That projected population growth means even more pressure on our aging transportation infrastructure. And that challenge keeps more than a few of America's mayors awake at night.

As Secretary Foxx has said before, mayors work at the ground level, where the rubber literally meets the road.

When the residents of our cities can't get where they need to go without crossing a structurally deficient bridge, that's a problem mayors need to solve.  When businesses can't get access to the deliveries, markets, customers, or employees they need to grow, that's a problem mayors need to solve.

But, when city planners and departments of transportation work to solve those problems and can't see beyond the next 2-month extension of federal transportation funding, that's a problem Congress needs to solve.  And when federal funding has remained essentially stagnant since 2009, struggling to keep up with minimal maintenance requirements, that is a problem Congress needs to solve.

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On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the phase-one ribbon cutting ceremony for one of our country’s most important and innovative infrastructure projects: the US 36 Express Lanes Project in Broomfield, Colorado. 

Our USDOT Beyond Traffic study tells us that, by 2045, there will be 70 million more people on our roadways.  The population in Colorado alone is expected to reach 10 million by that time. So, how do we prepare for such a crowded future?

To answer this question, Colorado is taking the lead with the US 36 Express Lanes Project.

Deputy Secretary mendez helps cut the ribbon

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I thank Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer for a good start on crafting a bipartisan six-year transportation bill. 

They, and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, took action on an increasingly urgent crisis: our roads and highways across America are falling apart.  If we want to lead the world in doing business and quality of life, we need an aggressive change of course in both transportation policy and in resources invested.

The committee advanced the ball today toward policy and funding goals that the Administration put forth in the GROW AMERICA Act, but there is still much work to be done to address several important policy issues and to bring funding to a level that will adequately address maintenance backlogs and needed expansion.  We saw some of these critical issues raised as amendments to today’s bill. 

Unlike last year, when progress stopped at this point, I hope that the EPW committee’s work this week is just the beginning – not the end – of actions by Congress to address America’s critical transportation issues and bring funding in line with our country’s needs.

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The Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of the National Bridge Inspection Program (NBIP) has helped ensure the safety of America’s bridges for more than three decades.  A large part of this oversight depends on data collecting and reporting, which FHWA takes very seriously.

That’s why the agency recently announced it will begin collecting new data from state DOTs to monitor the nation's bridge conditions even more closely. As of April, state DOTs started providing the improved data to the NBIP.

The safety of our roads and bridges is a top DOT priority. But, in a situation like today where we have a tremendous repair backlog due to chronic underfunding and one in every four U.S. bridges needs some type of improvement, it's important to know where those limited funds are needed most.  Improving bridge data helps better identify where to dedicate resources to ensure that America's key bridges remain in good-enough condition to support the traveling public, businesses, and the economy...

Bridge Out sign

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One of the most important jobs we have at DOT is to make sure rural Americans are connected --to each other; to schools, jobs, and medical care; to the 21st century global economy.  

Freight transportation, for example, is a huge concern for rural communities.  Farmers can't get their crops to market without it.  And with margins as tight as they are, the cost of that transportation can determine whether their crops are profitable.

And it’s not just freight transportation that makes a difference in the lives of rural Americans. When you're separated from your neighbors or the nearest town by miles, personal transportation matters.  Rural communities are often transit deserts, where those who can't drive are isolated from the basics --like groceries and doctors-- and from opportunities --like jobs and schools.

That’s why DOT sent GROW AMERICA, a long-term transportation bill that includes funding solutions for rural concerns, to Congress...

Rural road, South Carolina

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We talk a lot about Metropolitan Planning Organizations here in the Fast Lane.  Congress created MPOs to make sure that transportation projects and programs that use Federal dollars are based on a broad planning process that considers a wide range of interests.

I sat on my local Metropolitan Planning Organization back in Charlotte. I know how grueling the day-to-day work can be; you're dealing with a thousand stakeholders, planning and shepherding projects --sometimes at a maddeningly slow pace-- from lines on a blueprint to steel and concrete in the ground.  But it's also rewarding work because MPOs connect people to the opportunities their region offers.

You see, the work of transportation is not just connecting people to each other; it's also the work of expanding opportunity, of giving people access to a better life.

Unfortunately, as I told the National Association of Regional Councils yesterday, the work MPOs have been doing since Congress mandated them in 1962 is getting more and more difficult...

NARC 2015

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Mobile, Alabama, has one of the largest, most productive ports in the country –a port that is pumping billions of dollars into Alabama’s economy every year.  The Port of Mobile has a container terminal linked up with five railroads, two highways, and 15,000 miles of waterways.  An Airbus facility being built nearby --specifically for port access-- will open this year, and hire about 1,000 people.

Mobile is not alone in enjoying the benefits of a major port. According to a recent study, America’s seaports generated $4.6 trillion in total economic activity and supported 23 million jobs in 2014. That's up 43 percent since 2007 and accounts for 26 percent of the nation’s $17.4 trillion economy.

Which sounds like good news. But alarmingly, a survey entitled The State of Freight, released the same day by the Association of American Port Authorities identified a current need of $29 billion in port infrastructure investment just to be able to handle projected freight volumes in 2025. The survey also identified great need for investment in intermodal connectors, with 80 percent of ports needing at least $10 million in investment and 30 percent needing at least $100 million...

Port of Mobile

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Why talk transportation with a roomful of real estate folks?  Because the men and women gathered for the 2015 LOCUS National Leadership Summit this week are committed to place-making, to the kind of smart growth that creates livable development.  And because the kind of places that LOCUS members are trying to make need transportation. They need safe ways to walk; they need transit access; and they need the jobs and investment transportation brings. 

LOUCS summit

I've said repeatedly that transportation should not create division; it should be the solution to past divisions.  We've had a historic approach that emphasizes throughput --speeding people from one community through, over, or around another community-- usually by building a highway that actually isolates local residents from the jobs and other activities in a downtown business district.

We need a policy that emphasizes connection --for everyone. The members of LOCUS understand this.  That's why they've become our partners in LadderSTEP...

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A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than a collision involving another motor vehicle. And, more than half of all car-rail collisions occur at railroad crossings equipped with active warning devices such as flashing lights and gates.

Let all that sink in before your next trip traveling where roads and rails cross.

Rail crossing safety in the U.S. is a challenge as old as the rail lines that began converging with roads in the 19th Century, but it's a challenge that can be improved by making travelers more aware. That’s why the U.S. Department of Transportation’s railroad, transit and highway agencies are teaming up with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), to save lives by helping to fund OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!” public awareness campaign. 

OLI unveiled its latest video public service announcement today --International Level Crossing Awareness Day-- when more than 40 countries worldwide conduct public awareness efforts to promote safety at railroad crossings...

Continue Reading When train hits car, it’s ››
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