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U.S. metropolitan areas generate 90 percent of the nation's GDP, house nearly 85 percent of the population, and move 70 percent of freight value traded across the country. And, our cities are only expected to grow even more, absorbing an estimated 66 million more people in the next 30 years. That projected population growth means even more pressure on our aging transportation infrastructure. And that challenge keeps more than a few of America's mayors awake at night.

As Secretary Foxx has said before, mayors work at the ground level, where the rubber literally meets the road.

When the residents of our cities can't get where they need to go without crossing a structurally deficient bridge, that's a problem mayors need to solve.  When businesses can't get access to the deliveries, markets, customers, or employees they need to grow, that's a problem mayors need to solve.

But, when city planners and departments of transportation work to solve those problems and can't see beyond the next 2-month extension of federal transportation funding, that's a problem Congress needs to solve.  And when federal funding has remained essentially stagnant since 2009, struggling to keep up with minimal maintenance requirements, that is a problem Congress needs to solve.

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Independence Day is certainly an occasion for celebration in the United States.  However, as you prepare to travel by air this Fourth of July holiday, keep safety in mind and leave your fireworks at home.

DOT’s top priority for the flying public is for them to arrive at their destinations safely.  You can help us by leaving dangerous items, such as fireworks, out of your luggage...

Fireworks Don't Fly

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Can one of the nation’s newest, fastest-moving industries help to solve one of transportation’s oldest problems? At the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), we think the answer is yes. That is why today, we are proud to announce that Google has agreed to partner with us to make rail crossings safer for drivers and their passengers. 

Google has agreed to integrate FRA’s GIS data, which pinpoints the location of the nation's approximately 250,000 public and private railroad crossings, into its mapping services. Adding railroad crossing data to smartphone mapping applications just makes sense - it means supplying drivers and passengers with additional cues that they are approaching a crossing. For drivers and passengers who are driving an unfamiliar route, traveling at night, or who lose situational awareness at any given moment, receiving an additional alert about an upcoming crossing could save lives. 

Image of smartphones with railway crossings on maps

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At the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), we embrace good ideas that translate into safety improvements. We are always striving to protect the motoring public by removing unsafe commercial vehicles and drivers from our highways and roads.

Last year, Secretary Foxx tasked the Department’s Safety Council to oversee an independent review of FMCSA’s large truck and bus safety programs following a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into four commercial vehicle crashes.

That work resulted in a number of recommendations that will further strengthen FMCSA’s safety programs, and I am pleased to announce that we have implemented a number of them.

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As a mom, I live for long summer weekends packed with soccer tournaments, family cookouts, and road trips to the shore. But, as president of the National Safety Council, I’m all too aware that those fun times –moments we all live for– take place within the 100 deadliest days on our nation’s roadways.

It’s no coincidence that National Safety Month falls in June each year. Combine the high-exposure period when teen drivers are out of school and families log many miles to vacation spots with several holiday weekends where alcohol consumption is the norm, and it's no surprise that summertime sees the highest number of roadway fatalities of any season.

Most troubling this particular summer is that we're heading into the driving season with an already-elevated uptick in traffic fatality rates. According to National Safety Council estimates, every month for the past 6 months, the number of traffic fatalities per month has increased compared to the previous year by between 8 and 11 percent. This trend is alarming.

Cumulative monthly increase in motor vehicle fatalities

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On June 30 at 23:59:59 GMT, the world's clocks will add an extra second to the day.  

This "leap second" is needed because the Earth's rotation is gradually slowing down by around two-thousandths of a second per day, and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the standard international time scale, needs to catch up with atomic time. Because atomic time uses vibrations within atoms --which occurs at consistent frequencies-- it is considered more reliable than time measured by the Earth's rotation.

Why are you reading about this here in DOT's Fast Lane?  DOT serves as the lead civilian agency within the U.S. government on Global Positioning System issues, through our office of Positioning, Navigation and Timing, and this little second can make a big difference to technologies like GPS...


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On Monday, I had the pleasure of attending the phase-one ribbon cutting ceremony for one of our country’s most important and innovative infrastructure projects: the US 36 Express Lanes Project in Broomfield, Colorado. 

Our USDOT Beyond Traffic study tells us that, by 2045, there will be 70 million more people on our roadways.  The population in Colorado alone is expected to reach 10 million by that time. So, how do we prepare for such a crowded future?

To answer this question, Colorado is taking the lead with the US 36 Express Lanes Project.

Deputy Secretary mendez helps cut the ribbon

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The news for the air travel industry is looking good. With last week's release of Passenger Airline Employment data, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that U.S. scheduled passenger airlines employed 2.6 percent more full time equivalent people (FTEs) in April 2015 than in April 2014.

And that year-over-year job growth is more than a blip.  It's the 17th straight month that airline employment exceeded the same month of the previous year. Month-to-month, the number of FTEs rose 0.9 percent from March to April, and that's the 4th consecutive monthly increase.

More importantly, the total number of FTEs --nearly 400,000-- was the highest since September 2008, the last month before airlines first felt the effects of the recession. And the recovery in air travel indicates the broader recovery we're seeing across the economy...

Chart showing airline employment over time

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I thank Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Boxer for a good start on crafting a bipartisan six-year transportation bill. 

They, and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, took action on an increasingly urgent crisis: our roads and highways across America are falling apart.  If we want to lead the world in doing business and quality of life, we need an aggressive change of course in both transportation policy and in resources invested.

The committee advanced the ball today toward policy and funding goals that the Administration put forth in the GROW AMERICA Act, but there is still much work to be done to address several important policy issues and to bring funding to a level that will adequately address maintenance backlogs and needed expansion.  We saw some of these critical issues raised as amendments to today’s bill. 

Unlike last year, when progress stopped at this point, I hope that the EPW committee’s work this week is just the beginning – not the end – of actions by Congress to address America’s critical transportation issues and bring funding in line with our country’s needs.

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Even Fast Lane readers may not be aware that every transit bus whose purchase is supported by federal dollars must undergo testing at Pennsylvania State University’s Larson Transportation Institute in Altoona.

Bus testing has been a part of FTA’s oversight responsibilities since 1989. Over the years, both Congress and the FTA have periodically reviewed and modified the bus testing process to ensure that it continues to protect federal investments, provide valuable data for transit agencies, and incorporate advances in technology. The latest NPRM marks another step forward in updating our bus testing program for the next generation of buses.

Currently, the Bus Testing Program uses standardized tests to provide objective results for maintainability, reliability, performance, structural integrity, fuel economy, emissions, and noise.

The NPRM announced today introduces minimum performance standards for these bus performance categories...

Transit bus montage

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