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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

Continue Reading Local Foods, Local Places ››
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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.

Continue Reading U.S. Mayors call on ››
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The news for the air travel industry is looking good. With last week's release of Passenger Airline Employment data, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.6 percent more full time equivalent people (FTEs) in April 2015 than in April 2014.

And that year-over-year job growth is more than a blip.  It's the 17th straight month that airline employment exceeded the same month of the previous year. Month-to-month, the number of FTEs rose 0.9 percent from March to April, and that's the 4th consecutive monthly increase.

More importantly, the total number of FTEs --nearly 400,000-- was the highest since September 2008, the last month before airlines first felt the effects of the recession. And the recovery in air travel indicates the broader recovery we're seeing across the economy...

Chart showing airline employment over time

Continue Reading Passenger airline ››
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It's easy for a Chief Data Officer at DOT to feel invested in an event called Transportation Datapalooza. And it's easy for the data scientists, transportation planners, and app developers who presented their work on Tuesday and Wednesday to feel a similar investment. After all, the goal of our Datapalooza --improving the collection of transportation-related data, improving the tools to analyze that data, and improving the transportation decisions informed by that data-- is what these men and women are all about.

But I can assure you that even Fast Lane readers whose eyes roll at the very mention of "big data" actually have a big investment in the projects and developments discussed here at DOT Headquarters over the past two days.  Because transportation touches the lives of every single American, the improvements that Datapalooza is designed to nurture also touch the lives of every single American.

Whether the data advances we're talking about lead to more focused road maintenance investments or more efficient bus transit routes, in the end it's all about using limited resources to get Americans where they need to go and moving American freight more efficiently, more sustainably, and --most of all-- more safely...

Portland, Oregon bus

Continue Reading Transportation Datapalooza ››
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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

Continue Reading Let's keep rural ››
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This morning in the Fast Lane, Secretary Foxx reiterated the warning of our Beyond Traffic draft 30-year transportation forecast: “A tidal wave is coming for us in transportation, a wave of people and freight….Our infrastructure system, which struggles to meet its current challenges, won't be able to ride the coming wave.  Especially when you consider today's transportation funding situation.”

Fortunately, many communities across the U.S. —like those in our Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets— have embraced an approach that reduces roadway congestion and stretches our transportation dollars: bicycle infrastructure.  Even better, improving bicycle infrastructure boosts economic growth...

NYC Columbus Ave

Continue Reading Cities adopting bike ››
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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

Continue Reading NARC, MPOs ready to create ››
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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

Continue Reading To unleash American ports, ››
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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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Take a moment to envision a transportation super center –one facility connecting rail and road to a thriving port– that builds the local economy and adds to the national economy while supporting long-term, good-paying jobs.  Working hand in hand with state and Federal partners, the Port of Duluth–Superior is making that idea a concrete reality with the Duluth Intermodal Project.

Last week, I was on site at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority as they broke ground on this ambitious project that will help ensure the port’s future.  Supported by a $10 million TIGER grant, along with funds from the State of Minnesota and Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the Duluth Intermodal Project is real innovation in action. 

Thorough planning by port leadership coupled with partnered investment will rebuild two docks and connect them to rail and road corridors to better meet the 45 percent increase in domestic freight volume that we know must be moved by 2045...

Duluth-Superior

Continue Reading Superior Transportation ››
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