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Last month here in the Fast Lane, we announced our Beyond Traffic 2045: Reimagining Transportation speaker series. And on September 18, Secretary Foxx and Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Gregory Winfree kicked off this extended look at the future of how America moves.

We've designed this series to inform the ongoing national dialogue on Beyond Traffic, DOT’s 30-year framework for the future. To give you an idea of the series --and to share some of our first speaker's expert insights-- we put together a video below highlighting the series’ first talk by Andrew McAfee. McAfee is co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

McAfee’s ideas on finding the right mix of human and technological strengths will have significant implications for what our transportation system will look like in 2045, and we urge you to check out the video below.

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It's no secret to Fast Lane readers our transportation maintenance is lagging behind our growing need or that yesterday’s infrastructure will not meet tomorrow’s demand. We’re going to have 70 million more people in the next 30 years, and our ability to get where we need to go and move freight is already constrained.

And while freight grows domestically, we also have the widening of the Panama Canal, which will bring bigger ships and heavier loads into our ports. Despite the tremendous job America's ports do each and every day, meeting the triple challenge of expanding demand, larger vessels, and heavier loads will be no easy lift.

Fortunately, at the Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) in New Jersey, our Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) is part of a promising model for meeting those challenges. BATIC, which I wrote about here on Tuesday, is helping the PNCT explore financing options and eligibilities for its $230 million infrastructure modernization project...

Secretary Foxx at Port Newark

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Yesterday, NASA released data indicating evidence for liquid water on Mars, and it's got a lot of people pretty excited, including me. But the reality is, whether we find water on Mars or not, we have important needs to attend to right here on Earth. And we will have to attend to those for a very long time.

One of those needs is to create and maintain a transportation system that gets people where they need to go and delivers the goods that drive our economy and sustain our lives. And while building roads and bridges might not sound as interesting as exploring the conditions for life on Mars, it's critically important to the lives Americans lead right here, right now.

Last year, President Obama charged this Department with creating the Build America Transportation Investment Center to help us accomplish that mission. And today, we are formally announcing that we have hired a talented team of individuals to operate the center, which we call "BATIC," and outlined its three areas of activity.

BATIC serves as the single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities, and project sponsors looking to harness federal transportation expertise, apply for federal transportation financing programs, and explore ways to access private capital in public private partnerships...

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In a new DOT pilot program, New York City and Pensacola, Florida, will test delivery and pickup of goods during off-peak hours, such as nighttime, to help relieve congestion on city streets. 

The problem of local traffic is well-known to any major U.S. city; truck operators suffer when forced to crawl through crowded city streets, and residents suffer when trucks block travel lanes or parking access. With commuter traffic lighter and parking more available, off-peak hours should make delivery easier for truck drivers as well as peak commuters and people scrambling for parking. 

And thanks to DOT research, development, and deployment grants totaling $200,000, these two pilot cities will helps us test this idea... 

Night time delivery eases traffic, parking concerns

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Last weekend, the Federal Highway Administration, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, the Connecticut DOT (CTDOT), and New Haven area residents celebrated the opening of the highly anticipated Pearl Harbor Memorial “Q” Bridge. This $677 million bridge –of which nearly $590 million was federal funding– is a key part of the much larger $2 billion corridor project to improve I-95 through the New Haven area.

The original “Q” Bridge –so named because it spans the Quinnipiac River– was designed to accommodate up to 40,000 drivers each day. The new bridge, a 10-lane wonder, will accommodate triple that number...

Q bridge opening ceremony

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So, we know our revenues and our certainty are about as low as they’ve ever been. We know for sure that our country is growing and that we’re going to have more people accessing our roads, rails, and airports and more freight to move than ever before. Rather than having a single strategy, we need to have an all-of-the-above strategy. We need to use every financing tool available. When it makes sense, we need to turn to the private sector.

That's where Public-Private Partnerships come in. Now, it’s not that public-private partnerships haven’t been happening in U.S. infrastructure. They’ve been happening for a while. Earlier this week, I spoke with members of the Long Term Infrastructure Investors Association about the environment for these partnerships in the U.S. and DOT's efforts to improve that environment...

T-Rex light rail track work

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Over the past year I have been visiting research labs, technology companies, and manufacturers to deliver a simple message: The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape, for new technologies in transportation. If an emerging technology can improve safety and improve how we move, we want to see it on the market as quickly as possible.

And, as many Fast Lane readers know, we are especially bullish about the use of connected and autonomous vehicle technology. Because, who among us has never started to switch lanes thinking that the lane next to them was clear when it wasn’t? And who has never once had a hard time seeing an upcoming stop sign at night?

None of us are perfect, and when we're behind the wheel, mistakes can --and do-- happen.

So imagine having a car that is equipped with technology that can correct human error. Imagine riding a bicycle to a transit stop during rush-hour or walking across a busy street. Except now, you can basically communicate with the drivers and infrastructure surrounding you, and you're armed with information, so you're much less vulnerable.

This is what connected vehicle technology can do. It promises to eliminate 80 percent of accidents in which drivers were not impaired...

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Seattle’s industrial district in the south of the city is one of our nation’s busiest intermodal transportation hubs.  The interplay among ships, trains, and trucks exchanging cargo destined for U.S. points of delivery or export markets overseas churns incessantly day and night.  To someone new to the Pacific Northwest, the area South of Downtown –known locally as “SoDo”– would seem an unlikely first choice as an ideal spot for a relaxing bicycle ride or leisurely stroll. 

But an increasing number of bicyclists and pedestrians are looking for connections between SoDo and downtown, and finding ways to protect their safety as they navigate a sea of freight activity is important.

One year ago this week, Secretary Foxx announced the “Safer People, Safer Streets - Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative,” and one of the first steps in that initiative called for DOT field offices to lead non-motorized traffic, road-safety assessments in cities across the country.  I am proud that the Washington State Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration answered that call, leading a DOT team with folks from NHTSA, FHWA, and FTA in an assessment of the safety challenges facing bicyclists and pedestrians along the SoDo commuter route.

Biking amid trucks in Seattle

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It's no secret that freight rail and rail transit services are growing. With transit ridership breaking records year after year and expanded domestic fuel production putting more energy freight on the network, the rail industry in North America just continues to grow. This growing demand for rail services is exactly why the new Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Rail Tech and Engineering Center (RailTEC) is so important.

Last month, I had the pleasure of touring the new lab and helping celebrate its official opening.  There's no question that this world-class facility --funded by DOT's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, the Federal Railroad Administration, railroads, and rail industry suppliers-- underscores RailTEC’s status as a national leader for rail transportation research and innovation.

Group photo from RAIL  ribbon cutting

DOT's University Transportation Centers (UTC) program supports critical transportation research at competitively selected colleges and universities like Illinois around the country. As the lead UTC for rail research, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign works with rail industry leaders and state organizations to ensure that the research and curriculum continue to be relevant and timely...

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Today is September 1, but don't let that fool you. The 114th Congress has another week left in its August recess. What does that mean for Fast Lane readers? There's still time to #ShowUsYourInfraWear!

That's right, our summer vacation campaign to demonstrate how your community would benefit from Federal transportation funding continues on Instagram and on Twitter [external link]--where much to our delight the campaign took on its own momentum.

If you've been following the hashtag for the past 31 days, then you've seen some good snaps of crumbling bridges, damaging pavement, disappearing bike lanes, missing sidewalks, treacherous bus stops, and a host of other symptoms of an America that needs to invest more aggressively in how we move people and freight...

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