I’ve traveled all over the country talking with folks about how we find ourselves at a critical moment in our nation’s transportation history. In the next 30 years, our nation will need to accommodate 70 million more people and a 45 percent increase in freight. This growth will especially increase demands on our ports and waterways – which are integral to our Nation’s economic well-being and security.
So I was pleased that today, while at the American Association of Port Authorities spring meeting, I was able to address maritime professionals and experts who are intimately engaged with the challenges ahead of us, and also aware of the opportunity for growth and greater economic prosperity.
A major part of the Department’s mission is identifying the ever-changing transportation needs across the nation. A solution that provides for seamless transit in California wouldn't necessarily work for travelers in Massachusetts. With this in mind, FHWA launched the 2016 National Household Travel Survey - the first of its kind since 2009. A few days ago, the agency mailed the first of what will be 130,000 surveys to randomly selected households across the nation beginning a year-long data collection effort that will help us better understand the needs of America’s traveling public.
The four-page survey asks 16 basic questions whose answers will assist transportation planners and policy makers who need comprehensive data on travel and transportation patterns in the United States. An additional round of questions will ask households to record their typical days’ travel and enter it online on a special web page designed to protect their identities. The first part of the survey only takes a few minutes, and the second averages about 13 minutes to complete. The time needed for the survey is small but the value to me and other federal transportation officials is large.
In Oklahoma City, local leaders are planning ways for the neighborhoods surrounding the historic Santa Fe train station, which is being enlarged into a multi-modal transit center with streetcar, buses, light rail, commuter rail and retail shops, to receive the most benefit from the renovation.
In Lynnwood, a suburb of Seattle, the community hopes to revitalize a major downtown artery by attracting new homes and businesses along a planned extension of the light rail line.
And today, DOT leadership and staff traveled to Richmond, Virginia, to work alongside city officials in a workshop that will clarify roles and next steps to bring to life the city’s plans for neighborhood revitalization along its planned 7.6-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) line.
They say teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success. Well, thanks to the efforts of safety advocates across the Nation, highway fatalities have declined 25 percent over the past decade. Safety is central to NHTSA’s mission, and we cannot succeed in this mission alone. We take pride in working alongside these safety advocates, and are thrilled to recognize them for their hard work and accomplishments.
Whether it’s drunk-or distracted-driving prevention, seat belt use, child passenger safety, vehicle safety, or general highway safety, these experts and activists work diligently to make a difference and save lives on American roads. During our 34th annual Lifesavers Conference, held April 3-5 in Long Beach, California, we proudly honored 16 outstanding safety advocates with NHTSA Public Service Awards.
Over the last six years the amount of crude oil being transported by rail has increased approximately 5,000 percent—more than ever before in our nation’s history. This significant increase has affected communities along rail lines in many ways: from increased traffic at grade crossings to concerns about leaks, spills, potential derailments or other incidents.
The Department is doing all we can to ensure that all involved – community members, included- are prepared in the event of an accident. We work especially closely with local law enforcement, emergency responders and hazardous materials professionals to share information and support their efforts to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials. Most recently, we released the Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) training resource. Developed in conjunction with other public safety agencies, TRIPR leverages the expertise of rail carriers and industry subject matter experts to better prepare first responders to safely manage large-scale incidents involving unit trains transporting flammable liquids. This off-the-shelf training is available online and can be used anywhere throughout the country.
The world’s greatest highway system raised the standard, again, this past weekend when the Seattle area opened the world’s longest floating bridge. Under the watchful eye of a representative from the Guinness Book of Records, the new bridge measures an impressive 7,710 feet, or 1.5 miles long. That makes it one hundred and thirty feet longer than its predecessor, which in its day was also the world’s longest floating bridge. The new SR 520 bridge is more structurally sound and capable of resisting sustained winds of up to 89 mph.
This bridge is more than just an engineering marvel; it is an economic lifeline for the Puget Sound region.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) is determined to keep America’s airlines the safest in the world. It is with that thought in mind that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued a Lithium Ion Battery Safety Advisory on April 1 to notify the general public and shippers of recent actions taken by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to enhance the safe transportation of lithium batteries by air.
Those ICAO actions include a prohibition on the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo aboard passenger carrying aircraft; a requirement for lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at a state of charge of no more than 30 percent of their rated capacity; and requirement that small packages of so called “Section II” lithium batteries be offered to the operator separately from the general cargo stream and in single package consignments.
Industry actions that led to the recent natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon site underscored the serious risk that these storage facilities can pose. Shortly after the Aliso Canyon leak was controlled, we were able to visit the site of the leak to hear from local officials and experts. The visit allowed us to see the magnitude and gravity of this situation, and how it impacted people in California and the environment. It was incredible to see the spirit of partnership and collaboration between State and local agencies across California - along with support from Federal partners - to respond to this incident and to ensure it was resolved safely. Even so, the fact that this leak happened in the first place, the length of time that it took to fix, and the disruption that it caused for so many people are very concerning. That’s why we are launching this interagency Task Force, to help companies ensure that no community has to go through something like that again.
Here at the Department, while we are working hard each day to ensure that transportation accessibility translates into increased economic mobility, safety continues to be our top priority. With more than 10.6 billion passenger trips nationwide in 2015, how can we ensure and improve safety within the public transit industry?
Here’s one part of the answer: You bring together transit leaders from across the country to tackle tough issues and gather their knowledge to help leadership at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) make decisions that will produce long-term benefits.
The Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), chartered in 2009 to provide advice and recommendations to FTA on transit safety matters, met this week in Washington, DC, to discuss new developments at FTA -including recent safety actions and the status of safety rulemakings – and begin work on their transit safety tasks for 2016: safety culture and safety data/performance management.
This week, Secretary Foxx has shined a light on how and why transportation and access to opportunity are intimately linked. Here in the Departmental Office of Civil Rights we’ve made it our mission to ensure that understanding resonates not only with civil rights practitioners and transportation industry leadership but also every person who uses our nation’s transportation network.