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Today the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) WMATA Safety Oversight Office released our latest in-depth investigation report to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).   Special Directive 17-1 requires the transit agency to complete 47 actions to correct deficiencies in its traction power electrification (TPE) system, which is used to electrify Metrorail trains.  The special directive is based on 22 findings from an FTA investigation report into the condition and safety performance of the Metrorail TPE system, also released today. 
 

WMATA has reported more than 70 safety events resulting from electrical arcing in its traction power system since the time FTA took over temporary safety oversight of the Metrorail system in October 2015.  These events required an emergency response, and many resulted in the partial or full shutdown of a station or off-loading of a passenger train.



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Many of us were shaped by our school upbringing. Experiences that we have in classrooms or on field trips can spur an interest in a career field. Some students become fascinated in science by mixing chemical compounds. Some are fascinated by the stories of history, and go on to become storytellers themselves in classrooms. But rarely do students get an opportunity to learn about transportation and pipeline safety. As we celebrate the Department’s 50th Anniversary, we are striving to open doors to students at a young age to learn more about our multi-faceted transportation industry and inspire them to join us as we work to build a safer, more innovative and inclusive transportation future for all Americans.

 

To kick-start that process, on December 8, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) collaborated with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and hosted a “Future Leaders in Transportation” event at FAB LAB DC. The FAB LAB is a facility offering the community access to modern tools for invention, and was an idea that began as an outreach project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Bits and Atoms and has now spread to a number of cities around the country.

 


 

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Our release of the draft Beyond Traffic report in early 2015 launched a national conversation around the critical challenges that our country’s transportation system will face over the next 30 years. Our educational institutions are critical to helping us solve these challenges, and today, building on that conversation, I am announcing a call for applications for entities who want to join this effort as officially designated U.S. DOT Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers.


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Last year, Congress authorized a new grant program to help fund training for remote and volunteer first responders on how to handle incidents involving shipments of crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids by rail.  The Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) program has already helped volunteer first responders overcome limited resources to ensure they have the specialized training necessary to keep the public safe.

The non-profit organizations that received a total of $5.9 million in ALERT grants this year, have already put the money to good use. By developing a combination of in-person and web-based trainings, the grantees are helping train as many remote and volunteer first responders as possible.

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The choices we make about future transportation projects, the people they touch and places they connect, will play a critical role in determining how widely opportunity expands throughout America. Opportunity begins with thoughtful, creative minds and transcends from concept to reality. Through the USDOT University Transportation Centers (UTC) Grant Program, we’ve witnessed tremendous interest in propelling our aging transportation system into a cleaner, more efficient and connected future.

Since 1987, the UTC program has funded critical academic research on issues vital to the long-term safety and vitality of the nation’s transportation system, while opening doors for men and women who want to use their careers to do something about it. That’s why today, I am pleased to announce the recipients of over $300 million in five-year grants to 32 UTCs.

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We encourage innovation at the Department of Transportation, and Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center, is a key resource for innovative transportation research.

 

The Volpe Innovation Challenge inspires solutions to emerging transportation problems through cross-center collaboration, staff development, leadership, and mentoring. It’s a chance for Volpe staff to develop creative ideas that can lead to real-world results.

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Today's #TranspoStory feature comes from Lessie from Prince George's County, Maryland. In the video below, Lessie shares the transportation challenges faced by many passengers she encountered while working on a passenger ferry in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

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I recently participated in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the Johnson County Gateway project in Kansas.  The project will relieve congestion and improve safety in the cities of Lenexa, Olathe and Overland Park.

At a total $296 million cost, including $266 million in federal-aid funding, the second phase of the Johnson County Gateway Project is the largest of the three-phase reconstruction of I-435. This second and largest phase of the project includes the addition of two brand new interchanges, linking Interstates 35 and 435 and state highway K-10, and new lanes on I-435.

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At the Federal Highway Administration, we know that a multimodal transportation network is key to getting people where they need to go, whether they make the trip by car, on foot, on a bicycle, or all of the above.

However, when it comes to designing highways and other roads, our local partners are often unaware of the flexibility they have to safely accommodate all road users – including bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit riders.

That’s why we recently published a new guide to help states, local governments, transit agencies, and others make the most of their road infrastructure.

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Today, for the first time in more than fifty years, a scheduled, commercial flight took off from the United States and landed in Havana, Cuba. I had the privilege of joining the passengers and crew on that flight this morning as it left Miami and made the one hour journey across the Florida Strait, marking another important milestone in our ongoing efforts to reengage with Cuba.

 

President Obama took the historic step last year of declaring that it was time to “begin a new journey” with the Cuban people. Since then, under the president’s leadership, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and all of us at the Department of Transportation have been working to reestablish scheduled, commercial air service between our two countries, creating new opportunities for eligible travelers from the United States to visit Cuba.

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