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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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Secretary Foxx has talked a lot about the cost of transportation funding shortages --and for good reason.  Last week, I visited the site of a project that exemplifies exactly what has been happening all around the country: the US 395 North Spokane Corridor or NSC.  The NSC remains half-built, and there is simply no funding to build the second half, the remaining five miles that would connect it to Interstate 90. 

From one standpoint, the project really symbolizes what’s right in transportation today.  The people of this region came up with a project that would improve safety and reduce congestion.

The bad news is that --after 33 short-term, underinvesting extensions by Congress-- we still don’t have the federal funding to complete the NSC.  Or to complete thousands of other projects like it across the country.  Or to even start the thousands of other projects communities have planned to meet their most pressing transportation needs.

The NSC and its half-built and unbuilt counterparts do not need the short-term patch of another Congressional extension. They need the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress in March.  They need the substantial investment this nation has put off for far too long.  They need a long-term timeline that lets communities plan and invest in projects that will create jobs, improve residents' quality of life, and help the local economy grow...

At N.S.C. site
Acting FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau with Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, courtesy FHWA.
Continue Reading Funding shortages lead to ››
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When then Secretary Norman Mineta rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2004 to announce a new monthly transportation index, he kicked off a new era in the use of statistics for measuring transportation. In the decade since, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the DOT’s data agency, has been applying its advanced statistical methods to track the level of transportation activity, issuing an index number every month.

During the past 11 years, the BTS Transportation Services Index (TSI) has shown the changes in transportation activity, including both its low in the 2007-2009 recession and its record highs in recent months...

TSI showing Freight, Passengers, and Total
Transportation Services Index (TSI) Freight and Passengers (Year 2000=100)
Continue Reading TSI measures more than the ››
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Today the House of Representatives voted on its 33rd short-term funding measure for transportation in the past 6 years, and Americans will pay the price.

On the surface, funding transportation drop-by-drop might not seem like such a big problem.  But it is, and the facts are unassailable.  This era of short-term patches and chronic federal underinvestment has crippled America’s ability to build the transportation system we need.

This is not anyone's idea of the preferred outcome.  And while we recognize that Congress needs more time to complete work on what we do want –a long-term bill that increases investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the White House has made it clear that this pattern of perpetual uncertainty must stop...

Overburdened road
The light might be green, but no one's going anywhere.
Continue Reading Let’s Make it Count in 2015 ››
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In yesterday's #InfrastructureWeek edition of the Fast Lane, I wrote that even if Congress does manage to pass its 33rd short-term extension of our nation's transportation law, "the previous 32 short-term measures have all but stripped away the ability of state and local governments to complete big projects."

And this morning, I saw first-hand how our inability to invest adequately in transportation is affecting the everyday lives of people in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The nearly one million people living in the greater Knoxville area look a lot like the folks in communities I've visited across America.  They're trying to get their children to school on time, get themselves to work, and get home for dinner.  They're doing their part, trying to get a little bit ahead if they can, trying to ensure a better life for their kids.

But, short-term extension after short-term extension, their government is failing them.  And exhibit "A" of that failure is the Alcoa Highway...

Knoxville skyline

Continue Reading Knoxville area not alone in ››
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It's happening again.  The May 31 expiration date for federal transportation funding is fast approaching. 

Earlier today, I wrote to State Department of Transportation leaders, informing them that all federal participation in transportation infrastructure construction will stop if we reach that date without action by Congress.  States will not be reimbursed for construction costs.  They will not receive technical support.  And, as construction season begins after a long winter, projects will grind to a halt.

Maybe Congress will act in time.  But at best, they’re likely to pass another short-term extension, the 33rd such patch in the past 6 years.  And at best, they’ll prolong a dangerous status quo of funding infrastructure at a level that has left our transportation system gasping for air.

That's why thousands of stakeholders across the nation are rallying for the 3rd annual Infrastructure Week to urge Congress to say “no” to more short-term measures and “yes” to a long-term solution.

I’ll be leading the charge with kick-off events here in Washington, DC, and a week of activities in Tennessee, Iowa, and California...

Courtesy of Eric Wagner, BGOV
Photo courtesy of Eric Wagner (@WagnerEric), Bloomberg Government (@BGOV)
Continue Reading For Infrastructure Week, ››
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