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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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Apparently, President Calvin Coolidge was not an early fan of aviation.  However, once he came to see the value of aviation to the Nation, he was instrumental in getting through Congress the first legislation to establish a Federal aviation policy.  He signed the Air Commerce Act of 1926, determining the course of aviation regulation to this day, and the U.S. has been bullish on aviation ever since.

Today, the White House, DOT, and the Federal Aviation Administration all recognize how important aviation has been and how important it will be in the years ahead.  So it was a pleasure to meet with members of the International Air Transport Association this morning in Miami and help celebrate IATA's 70th anniversary...

Curtiss biplane

Continue Reading IATA helps keep the world ››
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It's not uncommon, while facing the challenges of winter, to look forward to the warmer weather promised by spring.  But, as readers know from news reports, this spring has provided severe challenges of its own.  In several states, heavy rains and flooding have taken lives, destroyed homes and property, and damaged roads.

In the two weeks between May 21 and June 3 alone, the Federal Highway Administration made available $11 million in Emergency Relief funds for flood-damaged roads in four states.

When disaster strikes, it's crucial to get roads reopened so emergency crews can get access into stricken communities and people from those communities can get access to shelter, medical care, and necessary supplies.  This spring, road crews in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, and Alaska have worked hard to keep communities connected, and we appreciate their efforts...

Oklahoma road repairs

Continue Reading DOT steps in with FHWA ››
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Each year, hundreds of heavy-duty vehicle drivers are killed and thousands injured in rollover crashes.  Fortunately, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) technology is available to prevent a large percentage of these crashes.  And our nation's commercial truck and bus drivers as well as bus passengers deserve the protection ESC offers.

That's why, since 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board --an independent Federal safety agency-- has recommended that ESC be required on all new trucks and buses. It's also why, in 2012, Congress directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider an ESC requirement.

And earlier this week, NHTSA finalized its rule requiring ESC systems on new heavy trucks and large buses.  NHTSA estimates the rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries, and 49 fatalities each year...

Truck in rollover testing

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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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Drunk driving takes a life every 58 minutes in America. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And soon, we might have a technology that essentially takes the keys out of drunk drivers’ hands before they can hurt or kill our neighbors and loved ones.

It’s called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS, and it’s designed to stop drunk driving in its tracks.

When installed in a vehicle, the system will instantly and accurately detect if a driver is above the legal alcohol limit and will prevent the vehicle from moving.  With 10,076 people lost to drunk driving in 2013, you can understand why everyone at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is excited about the possibility of bringing this technology to our nation's cars and trucks...

DADSS display table

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Why talk transportation with a roomful of real estate folks?  Because the men and women gathered for the 2015 LOCUS National Leadership Summit this week are committed to place-making, to the kind of smart growth that creates livable development.  And because the kind of places that LOCUS members are trying to make need transportation. They need safe ways to walk; they need transit access; and they need the jobs and investment transportation brings. 

LOUCS summit

I've said repeatedly that transportation should not create division; it should be the solution to past divisions.  We've had a historic approach that emphasizes throughput --speeding people from one community through, over, or around another community-- usually by building a highway that actually isolates local residents from the jobs and other activities in a downtown business district.

We need a policy that emphasizes connection --for everyone. The members of LOCUS understand this.  That's why they've become our partners in LadderSTEP...

Continue Reading Ladders partners ready to ››
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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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In April, I announced the launch of the seventh round of our TIGER discretionary grant program.  The 2015 TIGER program will make $500 million available for innovative and transformative transportation projects across the country.

Once again, the overwhelming demand for TIGER grants reflects the widespread need for additional resources to fund needed projects across the country. The Department received more than 950 pre-applications to fund transformative and innovative capital projects. Applicants are requesting nearly $14.5 billion in federal funds. 

That's 29 times the amount available...

TIGER funded transit project

Continue Reading Overwhelming demand ››
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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...


Continue Reading Superior Transportation ››
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