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On March 5, 2009, Jason Rivenburg –a 35 year-old truck driver from upstate New York– pulled his truck off the highway to rest at an abandoned gas station. The next day, his body was discovered in the cab of his truck; he'd been gunned down for the seven dollars in his pocket. Thirteen days after his murder, Jason’s wife, Hope, gave birth to twins who will never know their father. 

Jason didn't decide to rest at an abandoned gas station because of preference –he had little choice.  Because he was ahead of schedule, the distribution center where he would unload his freight wasn't available to him, and there simply weren’t any safe places for Jason to wait.  This is the dilemma many truckers face every day.

We have nearly six million commercial motor vehicle drivers out on our roads each day –a number expected to increase dramatically by 2045 and the safety of everyone on our roadways demands that drivers pull off the highway and rest periodically.  That means safe truck parking is a necessity.  And that’s why, last week, I was honored to join Hope Rivenburg in announcing the National Coalition on Truck Parking, a call to action for a national dialogue on trucking needs and strategies for immediate, near-term and long-term solutions...

Hope Rivenburg at coalition announcement

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Cross-posted from the August 12, 2015, Lincoln Journal Star.
Learn more about the Senator and Secretary working together.

Whether traversing through deep-water ports, over winding railroads or in the back of a long-haul truck, consumer products travel across the world before reaching the shelves of local markets in Lincoln and throughout Nebraska. Transportation fuels our economy.

Investing in our transportation infrastructure is vital to our nation’s economic health and global competitiveness. By doing so, we strengthen safety and commerce, and, in the process, create good, well-paying jobs for hardworking people in Nebraska and elsewhere. After all, nearly 12 million Americans work in transportation-related jobs.

The federal government must provide state and local policymakers with the right tools to maintain and update our infrastructure or build new projects. Unfortunately, Congress has relied on 34 short-term extensions since 2009, disrupting major infrastructure projects and causing stress for road builders, local officials and the traveling public. We can and should do better...

Official photos of Senator Fischer and Secretary Foxx
U.S. Senator Deb Fisher (R-Nebraska) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
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What happens when a busy port opens a new $27.5 million, 650-foot marine cargo dock and storage yard? When we're talking about the Port of Brownsville, Texas, that investment significantly boosts its capacity and capability, allowing the port to compete more effectively with major domestic and foreign counterparts in the Gulf of Mexico region.

The Port of Brownsville already generates $2 billion in annual economic activity for the State of Texas.  But port leaders understand that the future of freight is a future of dramatically expanding shipping volumes and an increasingly competitive global economy.  Their plans to face the challenges and opportunities of the future with a state-of-the-art dock and storage yard garnered the support of a $12 million DOT TIGER grant, and last Friday I joined Federal, State and local officials at the Port to mark the opening of the new facilities.

But this TIGER grant will help accomplish a lot more than increased capacity.  As an emerging regional trade hub and home to several of our Nation’s vessel recyclers, the Brownsville maritime industry is a major South Texas job creator.  The industry directly employs more than 1,200 Texans and produces commercial activity that energizes maritime-related and –linked industries, generating additional jobs in other sectors of the economy.  With the addition of this TIGER-funded dock and storage yard, we are proud to be contributing to the creation of even more employment opportunities for the Lone Star State...

Port of Brownsville ribbon-cutting

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Since 2009, our TIGER competitive grant program has provided a combined $4.1 billion to 342 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  That's a terrific outcome, right? Hundreds of good projects making it easier for people to get where they're going and easier for freight to get to markets. And any Department would be rightfully proud of that achievement --as DOT is.

But during that same period, demand has been so overwhelming that the Department received more than 6,000 applications requesting more than $124 billion.  That means that for every project selected, 17 projects that communities across the country need go unfunded.  And for every dollar requested, we have only been able to provide about 3 cents. Three cents.

For this year's TIGER grants, communities are facing the same disappointment: We've received 625 applications seeking $9.8 billion in funding, 20 times more than the $500 million Congress has made available.  Again, we're seeing a demonstration of the continued need for transportation investment nationwide.

Now, we're looking forward to selecting the best of those projects, but the consistent number of high quality projects we’re unable to fund through TIGER every year demonstrates the need for Congress to give more communities access to this vital lifeline.

U.S. highway 36 rendering with Tiger paw overlay

That's why earlier this year, we sent Congress the GROW AMERICA Act, a transportation proposal that included more than doubling the amount available for TIGER...

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By 2045, our nation will need to accommodate the 70 million more people that will be added to our population. Knowing this, we must prepare for a nation with growing needs for food, goods, commerce, defense, and energy.  These needs mean our national freight system will have to move 14 billion more tons of freight each year, and 4 billion tons of that freight will sourced internationally and move through America’s ports.

You can imagine, then, the importance of facilities like the Port of Virginia in Norfolk, the only port on the U.S. East Coast currently capable of handling the latest 13,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) vessels.  These super-sized ships are the vessels of the near future --a future that will feature a widened Panama Canal-- and these vessels are capable of carrying many times more freight than ships currently passing through the Canal. 

Yesterday, at the Port of Virginia, we celebrated the groundbreaking of two projects that will improve access, safety, and efficiency, allowing the Port to manage the anticipated increases in vessel size and cargo tonnage more effectively...

Port of Virginia groundbreaking
Click on the image to watch video of the groundbreaking from The Daily Press
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Yesterday, anticipating the second day of the New York Times Cities For Tomorrow conference, @mslynnross tweeted, "Looking forward to action-packed Day 2 at #NYTCFT...." And in my reply, I had to wonder whether I could deliver on that expectation.

It might not fit everyone's definition of "action-packed," but there was a lot of pretty lively discussion at Cities For Tomorrow, and later in the day when I met students and faculty at New York University's Rudin Center for Transportation...and again earlier this morning at New York MOVES.

You see, New York's residents, officials, and planners are having a real conversation about transportation, and they're talking about three things that I've been talking about with people across the country: the need to reverse our infrastructure deficit, the need to use transportation to connect people and not to separate them, and the need to protect everyone who uses our streets --including bicyclists and pedestrians.

For now, I just want to talk about one of them...

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From mass transit projects to new highways, bridges, sidewalks and hiker/biker trails, effectively addressing transportation needs in communities across the nation shares one common foundation —good planning.

RenoLast week, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced recipients of the biennial 2015 Transportation Planning Excellence Awards to local leaders who are sponsoring forward-thinking transportation projects that deliver lasting benefits to the public.

From Roanoke, Virginia, to Mt. Hood, Oregon, we selected eight projects based on their successes in forging partnerships in the community and developing creative, effective solutions with long-term benefits. Each project also addresses more than one form of transportation...

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Whether you're a close watcher of the industry or not, you've probably been hearing more lately about public-private partnerships in transportation.  And, chances are that you'll be hearing more about them in the near future.

This nation is facing an infrastructure deficit.  Yet we know that our country is growing –and that we’re going to have more people accessing our roads, rails, and airports than ever before.  And more freight to move than ever before.

This creates an environment where, rather than having a single strategy, we need to have an all-of-the-above strategy. This is where the concept of public-private partnerships – or P3s plays in...

Eagle P3 construction work

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Major trends are shaping the future of our transportation systems.  Our population is growing and aging. Our legacy transit systems need more attention every day.  Our roads and runways face increasing congestion.

America's way of life and continued economic growth depend on meeting these challenges, so this October, DOT and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host a Champions of Change event focused on Beyond Traffic: Innovators in Transportation for the Future.”

I invite you to help us recognize the champions who are making it all possible...

Champions logo

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The Connect Historic Boston project got its official start last Friday with a groundbreaking that included DOT's Undersecretary for Policy Peter Rogoff and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The public ceremony had a much longer guest list, however, because Connect Historic Boston would not be possible without the collaboration of the Federal Highway Administration, the Massachusetts DOT, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of Boston's Public Works Department, the National Park Service, and many others groups.  That long list of partners --and the improvements the project will make to America's oldest functioning street network-- helps make it exactly the kind of innovative undertaking that DOT's TIGER grant program was designed to support.

Which is why our $15.5 million TIGER award is making possible this $23 million effort to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to downtown Boston and its treasure of American history...

Connect Historic Boston graphic showing the various modal connections C.H.B. will allow

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