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The road to a career in transportation isn’t always linear.  At times, finding that specific career path is akin to taking a drive in the country without a GPS or even a map. Intersections and detours may put you in a place where you’ve never been. However, sometimes heading down the road less traveled leads to great things.

 

So how did Dr. Dana Peck find herself in a Data Fellow position at the U.S. Department of Transportation?

 

For Dr. Peck, her original plans didn’t include steering wheels, traffic signals and rail crossings. At Northeastern University, she was focused on renewable energy sources and a wind tunnel project.  A recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Grant, she entered into her graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) interested in energy efficiency and renewable energies. 

 

2014 CMU T-SET UTC Student of the Year Dr. Dana Peck (center), accepts her award from USDOT Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Greg Winfree (right), and University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Professor Shashi Nambisan (left). (Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University)

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Last April, I had the pleasure to accompany Secretary Foxx on his first visit to India, which happened on the heels of President Obama’s meetings with Indian Prime Minister Modi.  During our visit, the Secretary announced India’s return to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 status, signed a new Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) encompassing several Ministries with a special focus on multi-modal transportation, and announced an initiative to partner with India on the transportation elements of “Smart Cities.” 

 

My return to India comes nearly one year after DOT’s signing of the multi-modal MOC, and I have never been more excited about our partnership.  Last week, I visited New Delhi and Hyderabad.  In Hyderabad, I opened Aviation India 2016 air show alongside the Indian Minister of Civil Aviation, where I celebrated India’s one year anniversary of achieving Category 1.  I also had a chance to meet with U.S. aviation companies and the newly formed India chapter of Women in Aviation. 

 

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As we continue with our conversations on freight planning in cities around the country, we are delighted to have new funding opportunities to talk about with the new Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants. 

 

As authorized by the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, the grants are funded at $4.5 billion for Fiscal Years 2016-2020, including up to $800 million for FY2016. With these grants and the formula funds in the National Highway Freight Program, we have – for the first time in USDOT's 50-year history – dedicated, multiyear funding for freight infrastructure.

Tucson, Charlotte and New Orleans join countless cities nationwide to benefit from the program. Our challenge as a nation is to make sure we have the infrastructure to handle more goods movement to continue to promote economic growth and opportunity and be equipped to compete internationally. 

 

That’s why our conversations are centered on the Draft National Freight Strategic Plan and we continue to ask business, transportation, and state and local government leaders attending our roundtables to provide us with their feedback on where to make targeted investments in freight transportation and on how we can strengthen our freight transportation system.

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Yesterday, the St. Lawrence Seaway System officially began its 58th navigation season with the transit of the first vessel, the Thunder Bay. I was in St. Catharines, Ontario for the kickoff of the official opening, joining the crowd in welcoming this brand new state-of-the art Trillium class vessel into the Seaway System.  This new class of vessel sets high standards in operational and energy efficiency, reliability and environmental protection. 

SLSDC Administrator Betty Sutton and other officials at the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway

Just as the private sector is investing in new vessels, public sector investments in lock rehabilitation, port infrastructure, and new navigation technologies are laying the foundation for sustained future growth of the Seaway System.  We began an Asset Renewal Program (ARP) in Fiscal Year 2009 to modernize the 55-year-old U.S. Seaway infrastructure.  In the first seven years of the program, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) has spent $109 million on 50 separate projects to keep our assets in the best condition possible. 

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Women in transportation have and continue to forge a path that has led our industry to great heights. As President Barack Obama said in his 2016 Women’s History Month Proclamation, “In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America:  that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach.” While we remember the courageous women of our past, I want to acknowledge the women who will continue to shape our future.

Picture of MARAD Administrator and maritime women

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to the California Maritime Academy (CMA) in Vallejo for a visit and to speak to an auditorium full of well-respected maritime leaders, seasoned professionals and students participating in the 8th Annual Women on the Water (WOW) Conference which was combined with CMA’s 5th Annual Pearls of Power (POP) Conference.  Each year, the WOW event attracts educators from local and State Maritime Academies, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and maritime executives together with Cadets and Midshipmen (and even some prospective students) to explore the opportunities of the maritime industry.

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At the U.S. DOT, we like to talk about Ladders of Opportunity. That means that when we’re making an investment in transportation infrastructure, we don’t just look at how it will move people around, but how it will move them upward.

There are many ways to do that, but a few key areas tend to stand out, such as how the project will improve access to things like jobs, healthcare, and education. Whether it’s a rapid bus that stops at a community college, a light rail stop at a major medical center, or a streetcar that brings revitalization to an under-served neighborhood, public transportation has a unique ability to pave the way for economic and social mobility in a way that is personal and tangible.

US Secretary Foxx Speaking at Seattle Ladders of Opportunity Event

Secretary Foxx has made Ladders of Opportunity a cornerstone of his tenure. I was so happy to join him and a great group of community leaders in Seattle for the grand opening of the University Link light rail extension.

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I had the pleasure of returning home to Charlotte, North Carolina, this week for a Southeast Rail Forum hosted by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) International and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. While there, however, I had to deliver a tough message –  a necessary message – about the reality of transportation in the fast-growing region.

A wave of population growth is going to hit the Southeast –  we can expect another 13 million people and a significant increase in the movement of freight by 2045. This means that local and State leaders must move quickly to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the Region’s rail network and establish a Southeast Rail Commission to advance it or risk being stuck in traffic for a very long time. While progress over the years has been steady, we are still inching along instead of sprinting. We cannot afford to wait another generation to get to the finish line.

Picture of the Cities Sprinter Amtrak locomotive

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This weekend kicks off the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., and honors the lasting friendship between the U.S. and Japan. It’s a favorite event for Washingtonians and visitors alike. 

I hope you can get outdoors, enjoy the festivities, and take photos and video of the Nation’s Capital in bloom. But please, leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is releasing a new video today to remind the public that it is against the law to fly a drone anywhere in Washington, D.C. The National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Washington, D.C., area is strictly a No Drone Zone. We appreciate the National Park Service's partnership in this important public safety education effort.

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Central to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s mission of helping Americans drive, ride, and walk safely is keeping vehicles with safety defects off of our roads. In the wake of back-to-back record years of safety recalls, the agency has worked to reform how it investigates vehicles and equipment with safety defects and ensures that they’re recalled and fixed. The U.S. Department of Transportation and 18 automakers recently finalized a historic agreement on a set of broad-ranging actions to help make our roads safer and to avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting.

Our goal is a more proactive approach to recalls, one that prevents vehicles with defects from ever reaching our roads. But we’ve also known for some time that NHTSA needs a stronger hand to deal with companies that break the rules.

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In the U.S. and beyond, natural gas is an ever-present source of energy that we rely on in our daily lives. We use natural gas to heat our homes during the winter, fuel our cooktops and bbq grills, and, sometimes, even power our vehicles. Most people know that it comes from within the earth, like other commonly used fossil fuels. But how does it travel from deep underground to the back of your stove?

The answer lies within the nation’s two million-plus mile gas pipeline network, which consists of gathering lines that move gas from production sites to central collection sites; transmission lines that transport gas at high pressures over long distances from producing to consuming regions in great volumes; and distribution lines that supply natural gas to local customers, like your house or apartment building. If adopted, the rule would add new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines and expand safety standards to include previously unregulated gathering pipelines.

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