Families in more than 47 states in communities nationwide, from Cloquet, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Lahaina, Hawaii, celebrated the joy of bicycling to school and the importance of safety yesterday for the fifth annual National Bike to School Day celebration. Over 2,100 schools nationwide registered for the event and the number will continue to grow through the end of May.
Yesterday, to help support this annual push to get more kids biking and walking to school safely, I joined the Bike to School Day celebration in Washington, D.C. with over one hundred students from 10 Capitol Hill area schools. The excitement and joy from the children offered a wonderful example of the need for more safe environments for our children to walk and bike to school.
One word that often comes up in discussing unmanned aircraft – “drones” – is innovation. Every week it seems someone comes up with a new technology or a new use for these amazing aircraft. We’ve come a long way from where we were just a handful of years ago. In 2012, thousands – rather than hundreds of thousands – of drones were being sold annually. There were no drone sightings near airports. Nobody was shooting at drones that flew over their backyards or flying a drone into trees at the White House.
Fast forward to today. A few weeks ago, we said in our annual forecast the combined sales of hobbyist and commercial drones could surge from 2.5 million aircraft this year to a staggering 7 million in 2020. Drone technology development is so compressed that new products are flying out of the design studio and into factories in the blink of an eye.
If we want to be a nation where everyone is connected – where transportation is a thread that knits communities together – then we need to make sure our infrastructure design is as inclusive as it can be. Transportation infrastructure choices made at the Federal, State and local levels can strengthen communities, create pathways to jobs, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.
A majority of transportation infrastructure planning is done at the local level, so we are working to empower state and local leaders to use existing resources to support transformative transportation projects in their communities. Cities like Baltimore and Richmond prove that by prioritizing local needs while ensuring that everyone has access to safe, efficient, and reliable transportation, we can simultaneously expand connectivity and access to opportunity.
All week, the nation is celebrating Public Service Recognition Week to uplift the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local employees. We honor their dedication and service fueled by their efforts to come together to change our country for the better. DOT alone employs almost 55,000 people across the country, in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and its Operating Administrations and bureaus. So I must highlight their work over the past 50 years that continues to keep citizens safe and connected to their communities through our vast transportation system.
For the next 5 days, nationwide, we celebrate National Small Business Week and the theme “Dream Big, Start Small” because as President Obama said, “Across America, small businesses support economies, employ local residents, and contribute to the vibrancy of their communities.”
That’s why I’m proud that this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) earned an “A+” rating on the federal government’s annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard – one of three federal agencies to receive the highest grade for meeting its small business federal contracting goals in FY2015. What’s more, this is the seventh consecutive year DOT has received an “A” or higher rating for continued commitment to America’s small businesses.
Traffic in the Mile High City is already challenging, and getting worse. Even more chokepoints are in store for Denver and the rapidly growing Rocky Mountain region unless the right transportation solutions are found. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is taking this challenge seriously and has embarked on numerous transportation projects in the last few years to address gridlock.
In April, CDOT expanded capacity on I-25 by adding an Express Lane in each direction between US 36 and 120th Avenue. Denver-area transportation planners have a stellar history in addressing the region’s growth and are not new to megaprojects, such as the T-REX, that have improved traffic flow, expanded transportation options and transformed the area.
What does the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) have in common? As experts would say, “It’s all in the timing.” Last week, I got the chance to attend a demonstration at the NYSE on Enhanced Loran (eLoran), a precision-timing technology for financial transactions. eLoran is one of several technologies being considered to provide a complementary timing solution to existing GPS technology.
As the lead civil federal agency for GPS, the U.S. Department of Transportation has a huge responsibility to represent the myriad of civil GPS applications, not only for transportation, but applications ranging from operations of first responders, search and rescue, weather forecasting, earthquake monitoring, surveying and mapping, precision agriculture, and…of course…financial transactions. We accomplish this through our Office of Positioning, Navigation and Timing & Spectrum Management (PNT).
When approaching the scene of any severe accident, the assessments and decisions made by first responders is critical. Their vigilance remains just as important when arriving on the scene of a potentially dangerous hazardous materials (hazmat) incident, to ensure the safety of the public and themselves. It is essential that they’re equipped with the knowledge and current information to make the hard decisions during those first critical moments.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) makes it a priority to deliver that knowledge directly to first responders. This week, PHMSA released its 2016 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) designed to help first responders identify specific risks associated with compromised hazmat items, how to protect themselves, and procedures for containing the incident as quickly and safely as possible.
Earlier this year Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wrote to Fast Lane readers about her desire to ensure safe and reliable transportation access to the people of Baltimore, no matter their neighborhood, saying that “transportation is such an integral part of upward mobility.” And she is right, transportation can and should bring opportunity to your front door.
So, this morning, we continued to put our words into action and broke ground on the “Re-Connect West Baltimore” project.
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.