Today we released a set of Fact Sheets showing the condition of transportation in all 50 states. It's not a pretty picture.
Grim data from just one of the 50 fact sheets DOT released today.
A nation's infrastructure is its economic backbone. And you don't need a history book to know that a big part of America's success has long been our willingness to invest in our transportation system. In return, our ability to get supplies to manufacturers, goods to market, and people where they need to go has helped us thrive.
But we've been investing in that ability less and less. And, as our willingness to invest has declined and transportation spending has decreased, it's no coincidence that —more and more— Americans in every state are experiencing the frustration of poor road conditions and congestion.
Like most of our Nation’s major urban areas, New York City is experiencing growing pains. The Big Apple’s rising population means surging needs for freight and services, which have made congestion a common reality for the city’s more than 10 million daily commuters.
However, New York has long had a transportation ace in the hole —its geography and access to water. New York City is positioned on a series of islands right in the middle of New York Harbor, one of the world’s largest natural harbors. We at the Maritime Administration (MARAD) have always viewed the harbor as a common sense solution to the city’s transportation challenges, whether it’s using ferries to transport people or ships and barges to move freight, and that’s why we've been making moves to help New York fully leverage this asset.
Floating containers on barges across the harbor has long been a reliable way to move cargo between New York and New Jersey —without adding to the dense traffic on the region's bridges. That’s why back in April, with MARAD's support, Secretary Foxx formally designated a cross-harbor barge service between Port Newark and Brooklyn as an Official American Marine Highway Project...
Fast Lane readers will know that we haven't been shy about sharing the environmental benefits of shipping freight by water. From America's Marine Highways to the first LNG-fueled container ship, we think the relative sustainability advantages of maritime shipping add up to a significant benefit for shippers and the public. And at the end of May, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation added to the evidence when Green Marine certified the DOT agency's environmental performance.
Green Marine is a voluntary organization certifying environmental stewardship among the North American marine industry. Participants include shipowners, ports, terminals, and shipyards based in Canada and the United States, as well as the Canadian and U.S. Seaway corporations. The program encourages participants to reduce their environmental footprint by taking concrete actions in nine different areas.
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...
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.
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...