As you may know, I spent the last week in Northern Europe to take part in an innovation exchange revealing how cities are getting smarter about transportation, most specifically bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure. While there, I was joined by key department staff and mayors who are taking part in my Mayors' Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets - some of whom are finalists in the Smart City Challenge.
Let me first acknowledge the tremendous opportunity to be surrounded by the leadership of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands who, like me, are dedicated to an efficient, safe and inclusive transportation network. As we work to help define what it means to be an American “Smart City,” and lead the country in planning for the challenges of the future, I was excited to discuss how we make our neighborhoods here at home more inclusive, multi-modal, and improve access to economic opportunity.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is committed to advancing the safe operation of the nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines, and each year in April we reaffirm that commitment as we observe National Safe Digging month. Excavation damage to underground pipelines is the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents and can result in property damage, injury and death – between 1988 and 2014, excavation damage was the cause of 1,815 pipeline accidents in the United States.
To further advance the safe digging message at every possible level, PHMSA has launched “Each One…Outreach to One,” a grassroots initiative aimed at bringing greater awareness to damage prevention, calling 8-1-1 and enforcement of excavation laws by encouraging each individual to reach out to just one other person in their community about calling 811 before digging.
If you stand on the deck of the USS Constellation in Baltimore, you can look up and see an intricate web-work of running rigging, sails, wooden “spars” and even the elevated “fighting tops,” from which turn-of-the-century gunners fired down on the enemies of the United States. For more than 200 years, America’s ships, ports, lighthouses and waterways have been used by generations of mariners to build, defend and sustain our way of life in the United States. Separately and together, each vessel, pier and aging towpath tells a story about our history that needs to be heard.
That’s why the Maritime Administration, in partnership with the National Park Service, recently provided approximately $2.6 million in Maritime Heritage Program grants for projects in 19 states. These funds will be used to repair and restore a vast array of sites integral to our Nation’s maritime history, as well as help to launch a variety of historic exhibits, education programs and online resources. Since 2014, more than $5 million has been provided in two rounds of heritage grants to keep our maritime heritage alive.
For anyone looking to travel the typically congested interstate or winding city streets from downtown Denver to Denver International Airport, life has just gotten a whole lot easier. A trip that used to take an hour or more by car or local bus has been cut in half thanks to a sleek new commuter train, courtesy of Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and one of the nation’s first transit projects supported by a public-private partnership (P3).
Along the way, the commuter rail service stops in East Denver, Aurora and other communities dotting the I-70 corridor, linking residents to jobs and other opportunities in the metropolitan area.
It’s natural for people to trust their senses. We feel them when an elevator is moving down floors or when there are changes in pressure at higher elevations. In some cases, however, what our bodies are feeling can be misleading. For pilots, this can occur during what is called spatial disorientation, and have severe consequences.
Spatial disorientation is a factor in roughly 10 percent of loss-of-control events, which are the leading cause of fatal accidents in commercial aircraft. Ninety percent of crashes resulting from spatial disorientation scenarios are fatal.
Historically, exposing pilots to the feeling of spatial disorientation in standard flight simulator training has had limited effectiveness, especially for fatal scenarios. To address this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to Systems Technology Inc. (STI) to develop technology to train pilots to recognize and react to spatial disorientation in flight. In 2012, STI started developing a prototype that focused on vestibular illusions, which affect the human body’s internal motion sensors, including the inner ear.
The American transportation system has historically relied on highways and personal vehicles as the main mode of transportation, but as communities modernize they are embracing solutions that decrease congestion, emissions and total time stuck in traffic. Active transportation systems, including bike and pedestrian networks, are one tool that many communities are incorporating into their long term transportation plans.
All transportation infrastructure requires funding and financing, and the Department of Transportation has the tools to help projects get from creative idea to completed project more quickly. Both the Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Investment Act (TIFIA) program offer tools and support for projects. On April 27, 2016, both BATIC and TIFIA will be co-hosting a webinar to discuss new opportunities for active transportation to access these tools.
On Earth Day we are reminded of our responsibility to do all we can to preserve the planet for the next generation. Here at the Department – with programs like the Federal Transit Administration’s “Low-No” making a dent in the carbon footprint of transit buses and the Maritime Administration’s efforts to promote the adoption of alternative fuels and technology – we are fully committed to better environmental stewardship.
However, all over the world, there’s an important facet of environmental protection that is usually overlooked: More often than not, the environmental costs of transportation are borne by those who can least afford it.
When we think about pollution, questions and regulation typically begin with what, where, or how much. Environmental Justice (EJ) shifts the focus to who. The progress that the environmental movement has made has not yet produced equality. Pollution harms poor communities, people of color, and indigenous groups disproportionately. We know, for example, that many of our poorest communities lack good transit access, which means carbon emissions in those communities from automobiles are a by-product of the need to connect to opportunity by the means available.
I have long said that when it comes to our national security and our Nation’s prosperity - small shipyards play a critical role.
American shipbuilders not only ensure that our Nation can build and maintain the vessels our military needs to keep our Nation secure, smaller shipyards throughout our Nation maintain our domestic fleet that keeps essential commodities flowing and goods on the store shelves including in Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. But what’s more, our Nation’s shipyards continue to meet or exceed international standards for efficiency and productivity in building vessels for use all over the globe while ensuring the creation and availability of good-paying jobs here at home that can support a family.
This is exactly why the Maritime Administration awarded $4.9 million in grants for capital improvements at nine small U.S. shipyards. This funding will support industrial modernizations so that our small shipyards can better compete in a rapidly changing global marketplace.
I recently completed a ride-along with owner operator Leo Wilkins. Our two-day and nearly 800-mile trip began in Sheffield, Ohio, and ended in Grain Valley, Missouri, outside of Kansas City. Along the way, we traveled through Toledo, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and St. Louis.
I wanted a first-hand and unfiltered look – from the driver’s perspective – at how our work at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with the efforts of our industry and law enforcement partners impacts safety on our nation’s roads.
Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy. Our transportation system moves millions of people and countless tons of freight every day, which requires a lot of energy – energy that is released into our environment in the form of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. In all, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-largest contributor.
At FTA, we’re proud that public transportation is already a greener way to get around than driving a private vehicle – but we can do more. That’s why we developed the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment program, known as Low-No.