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“Smart technology,” “integrated data systems,” and “intelligent systems” are today’s buzz words for what is unique and innovative. They are used to describe what is futuristic and high-tech – a way to make the world better. But, did you know, DOT has been on the forefront of creating a real and workable “smart” system for over 25 years?

In 1991, before people even began talking about smart technology, DOT established its Intelligent Transportation System Joint Office within the Federal Highway Administration to oversee multimodal intelligent transportation research systems initiatives. The Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) program is not just a marketing or publicity ploy within DOT – ITS is a reality.

image of ezpass toll lane

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In May, The National Association of Railroad Passengers sent their intern, college sophomore Elena Studier, on 38-day multimodal road trip across the country by rail, visiting more than 18 cities and 15 states. Studier has chronicled her trip on her blog, “Summer by Rail,” to highlight the 21st Century’s public transportation services in America, and capture how people live and move in different regions of the U.S. With her trip more than half done, Elena shares with Fast Lane readers a glimpse of her trip, the relationship people have with transportation services like rail, subways, buses, and bikes and how these services can connect people from coast to coast.

Hi, I’m Elena! I’m a sophomore in college focusing on transportation and urban environments while working toward my undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Human Geography.

This is my summer by rail.

US map summer by rail image

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Border crossings are a key part of our nation’s transportation system.  They can make easier or more difficult the movement of people and goods—and they can promote or represent barriers to international commerce.  Fortunately, innovative technology offers cost-effective solutions to help make the process of crossing a border run more smoothly.

According to the Department’s draft report “Beyond Traffic,” it is estimated that by 2040 freight volume will grow to 29 billion tons – an increase of over 45 percent – with much of this growth anticipated to impact border crossings.

Since border congestion can stifle commerce and negatively impact our economy, the Federal Highway Administration wants to find creative solutions.

USA border delay board image
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Last December, Secretary Foxx launched the Smart City Challenge in response to the trends identified in the Beyond Traffic draft report, which revealed that our nation’s aging infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a dramatically growing population in regions throughout the country. 

Join us on Thursday, June 9 at 2:00pm ET as mayors of the seven finalist cities –AustinColumbusDenverKansas CityPittsburghPortland, and San Francisco - make their ‘final pitch’ for why their city should be selected as the winner of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

smart city chalenge logo  

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Once again, demand for our TIGER competitive grant program has been overwhelming.

With 337 applications coming from urban areas and 248 from rural communities, the continued high level of interest in this widely successful program underscores the desperate need for transportation investment nationwide. In its eighth year with $500 million in available funding, TIGER applications totaled $9.3 billion. Communities across the country know that if we want a strong, multimodal transportation system that will meet our needs in the future, we need to make meaningful investments today.

Santa Fe Depot TIGER image

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Innovation is paramount at USDOT. We have long supported cutting-edge transportation research and development, and believe in giving innovators access to the data and tools necessary to help launch pioneering technologies in their own communities. This partnership of research and deployment can generate even more creative problem-solving and forward-looking solutions for meeting our current and future infrastructure challenges. That said, I’m excited to give our Chief Innovation Officer a platform here on my blog every week to showcase the hard work being done at the Department that will allow for 50 more years of thought leadership and innovative transportation solutions. Welcome to #TechTuesday!

-Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

Ever think about how engineers will design bridges in the future?  That topic may not be the first thing on your mind but it is a critical one.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) points out that 66,749 bridges – totaling about a third of the bridge decking in the US – are structurally deficient and will need to be replaced or repaired.  We have a lot of bridge building in our future!

How do we make sure these new bridges will last, not just for a while but for 100 years or more?  The key is to eliminate some of the ways a bridge can fail. 

That’s where Dr. Kornel Kerenyi and his team at the Federal Highway Administration’s Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center come in.

Iron Worker on Champlain Bridge image

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Today, Secretary Foxx and the FAA announced a $500 rebate to encourage general aviation pilots to install a crucial piece of NextGen equipment in their aircraft.

We’ve talked quite a bit about NextGen and how the FAA is harnessing satellite technology to modernize the nation’s air traffic system and make it safer, greener, and more efficient.

ADSB Rebate image

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When the USDOT began its research into connected vehicles over a decade ago, we knew this wireless communications technology had the potential to transform our nation’s transportation system. We also knew we had a long journey ahead of us of extensive research, development, and testing. But we are now in that sweet spot of pilots and deployments. This powerful technology is finally coming to a road near you.

Last September, the future of transportation took a huge leap closer when we selected three connected vehicle deployment sites as participants in the Connected Vehicle Pilot Deployment program. The three sites include using connected vehicle technologies to improve safe and efficient truck movement along I-80 in southern Wyoming, exploiting vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and intersection communications to improve vehicle flow and pedestrian safety in high-priority corridors in New York City, and deploying multiple safety and mobility applications on and in proximity to reversible freeway lanes in Tampa, Florida. Since September, the connected vehicle pilots have been smoothly moving forward, and we should see deployment plans for these pilots by this summer.

virtual image of road with text "Incident Ahead Reduce Speed move to left lane"

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All month at the Department of Transportation, we’re highlighting how the past 50 years of innovation have transformed the way in which we move people and goods across the country and around the world. We’re also looking ahead at the ways in which advancements in technology are allowing us to work toward 50 more years of forward-thinking innovation that will continue to keep us on the forefront of game-changing transportation.

But we can’t just talk about it – we must be proactive in our approach, and so we’ve put ourselves to the test. Today at the U.S.-China Transportation Forum in Los Angeles, we launched the Race to Zero Emissions (R2ZE) Challenge. This collaborative and friendly competition encourages transit agencies here in the United States and China to deploy innovative, advanced, non-polluting Zero Emission Buses (ZEBs) with the target of having such buses make up at least 35% of our fleets by 2025. In doing so, we aim to reduce greenhouse gas and emissions while fostering demand for zero emission, heavy-duty vehicle technology. 

Race to zero emissions banner image with secretary Anthony Foxx

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Across the country, millions of students are heading to the podium, taking part in commencement ceremonies at institutions of higher education. These sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and colleagues equate to more than just numbers, they are our Nation’s future.

In addition to their degrees, these graduates hold the key to innovation. Many students spend four or more years working on the “the next big thing” – that cog in the wheel that will turn our present mode of thinking, living and doing into tomorrow’s reality.

Secretary Foxx at the UTA's Center for Transportation Research at the TACC’s Visualization Laboratory
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