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One of the ways DOT serves the American public is by working with small businesses to find new ways to improve our nation’s roadways. Our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program encourages small businesses to explore potential solutions to transportation challenges.

In 2009, we solicited research on a topic sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): to develop a new pavement that could generate power and transfer it to the power grid. The SBIR Phase I submission had to meet the following requirements:

  • Use recycled material;
  • Withstand traffic loads; and
  • Be durable enough to avoid costly replacement cycles.

In response to this solicitation, Solar Roadways, Inc., began proof-of-concept work. Their proposal: self-sustaining pavement, made from hexagon-shaped solar panels. If successful, this pavement could potentially eliminate the current practice of replacing asphalt, and ultimately transform the nation’s roadways into an intelligent pavement system...

Solar roadway panels
Solar roadway panels feature LED lights which can "paint" the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving.
Continue Reading New Pavement System... ››
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In late October, I set an ambitious goal for our Federal Aviation Administration: to create and launch a registration system for unmanned aircraft before Christmas this year. And today, I'm pleased to write that the FAA has reached a critical milestone toward delivering on this goal.

Earlier this morning, we announced a rulemaking that will create a simple and easy online registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds. This registration system was created by gathering input from a task force that included government stakeholders and representatives from across the aviation, technology, retail, and user communities.

Under this new rule, anyone who bought a small unmanned aircraft before December 21 of this year must register by February 19, 2016. Those who purchase their aircraft after December 21, must register it before their first outdoor flight...

unmanned aircraft aloft

Continue Reading FAA rolls out UAS ››
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In last year's Best Places to Work in Federal Government rankings, DOT earned the 8th spot among the 19 "Large Agencies," and our Federal Highway Administration also took the 8th spot among the nearly 300 "Agency Subcomponents." A year later, the Department has maintained its position and FHWA also remains a top performer, placing 13th among the now 320 sub-agencies. And, among the 75 agencies organized by mission, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) placed 8th in the Energy and Environment category.

And, while we're pleased with our relative standing --and so proud of FHWA's performance among such a large competition pool-- we're also pleased with our improvement in the employee satisfaction scores that generate those rankings.

The Department as a whole raised our score 2.7 points. And in the "Agency Subcomponent" category we had a number of significant jumps, with both our Office of the Inspector General as well as PHMSA increasing by 5.3 points and our Federal Aviation Administration up 3.7 points...

Best Places to Work logo

Continue Reading DOT, FHWA continue to rank ››
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Earlier this week, Jacksonville, Florida, a heavily transit-dependent community, opened the first segment of its First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit system (BRT).  The Green Line, one of five First Coast Flyer phases, now offers service from the Rosa Parks Transit Station near Jacksonville’s downtown north to Interstate-295.

Fast Lane readers might remember that it was little more than a year ago when Secretary Foxx was in Jacksonville for the groundbreaking of the Flyer’s first phase of Downtown Improvements, funded in part by our Federal Transit Administration.  And, it was only March of this year that the FTA and Jacksonville Transit Authority finalized a second grant, Small Starts funding for the now-open Green Line corridor, officially the Flyer’s second phase.

No sooner had the Green Line opened on Monday when the FTA added $19.1 million in Small Starts funding for the Flyer’s third phase, the Southeast Corridor...

Continue Reading As Jacksonville opens one ››
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When disaster strikes, transportation provides a lifeline to recovering communities.  The irony is that the very highways and bridges relied upon can also be the ones destroyed by extreme weather events.  People need them to get back to their daily lives and regain a sense of normalcy, and business owners need them so they can continue to operate.

However, the scale of a disaster can overwhelm a state's resources. That’s why the promise of federal relief to help restore transportation is so important.

The $410 million announced last week under the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief program will reimburse 33 states and one US territory for restoring transportation links.  The relief spans the Nation from California to New York and includes national parks, forests, and other federal lands...

Bridge wash-out, Texas

Continue Reading Emergency Relief from FHWA ››
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The data in FHWA’s annual Highway Statistics show a record-high 214.3 million licensed drivers in the US in 2014, including 95.9 million who are of age 50 or older.  These figures support DOT's Beyond Traffic study, which predicts a 77-percent increase among drivers over age 65 by 2045. What’s more, drivers who are 85 or older increased by 2.9 percent from 2013 to 2014; they remain the nation’s fastest growing demographic group among licensed drivers.

As America’s driving population ages, resources addressing the needs of those drivers become increasingly important. And now --just in time for Older Driver Safety Awareness Week-- the Roadway Safety Foundation, with support from the Federal Highway Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has launched the Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (ChORUS) at www.roadsafeseniors.org.

Staying active and connected with friends, family, and neighbors can promote the healthy aging we all deserve. ChORUS was developed with this ultimate goal in mind, and with the knowledge that achieving it will require the efforts of a broad range of stakeholders...

Screenshot of Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety website www.roadsafeseniors.org

Continue Reading Clearinghouse for Older ››
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Last year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a monumental step toward equal access and opportunity. Under Title VI of the Act, discrimination in programs and activities receiving Federal assistance is prohibited, and Federal agencies are obligated to ensure that our recipients comply with the statute and that their program activities don’t discriminate.

Five decades later, we still find ourselves working to ensure this landmark Act's effectiveness. And today, DOT is launching an investigation into the widespread closures and service reductions at driver’s license offices in Alabama to determine whether the State’s actions violate Title VI.

"Closed" sign

In September, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) announced that it would close or reduce services in 34 offices. These offices provide essential services; they are the only places where Alabama residents can obtain driver's licenses and other state-issued identification needed to open bank accounts, vote, or operate a motor vehicle, and they are the only places where residents can register their vehicles.

Without being able to get a driver's license, access to jobs is constrained. Without being able to get a commercial driver's license, another obstacle to opportunity is raised. The services ALEA provides are critical to full participation in civic and economic life.

The preliminary information we have suggests that, in a state where driving is the primary mode of transportation, these service reductions disproportionately affect African-American residents. Because the ALEA receives substantial Federal assistance from this Department, we must ensure that its service reductions do not discriminate...

Continue Reading DOT investigates possible ››
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Since 1978, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 5-Star Safety Ratings have helped consumers buy vehicles that better protect them on the road. We crash-test vehicles, then assign 'star' ratings on how they perform, giving extra credit for vehicles that offer advanced safety features. One star is the lowest rating, and five stars is the highest. More stars means safer cars.

But, in a time when vehicle technologies advance at lightning speed, NHTSA must constantly innovate to stay ahead of the pace of change. That’s why, today, we’ve announced a plan to revolutionize the way we crash-test cars and rate vehicles. Our goal --as always-- is to promote an even higher level of safety and put that knowledge to work for consumers.

We’re updating our 5-Star Safety Ratings --also known as our New Car Assessment Program or NCAP-- to provide consumers with an even better system to help them shop for safety when buying a new car...

5-Star safety ratings for the future

Continue Reading Strengthening NHTSA’s 5- ››
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Here in Washington, DC, an extension of Metrorail’s Green Line into the Southeast Navy Yard neighborhood in 1999 attracted new investment and generated huge changes. A former industrial district filled with empty warehouses and little-used surface parking lots transformed into a thriving mixed-use community that includes the home of the Washington Nationals baseball team, federal and city agency offices --with our own U.S. Department of Transportation among them, corporate offices, thousands of new apartments and condos, a riverfront park, neighborhood retail shops, a large grocery store, and dozens of new restaurants. Where, once, old businesses were fading, now, new families are growing. And the pace of this transformation hasn't slowed.

We call that transit-oriented development (TOD). The best kind of TOD results in compact, mixed-use communities that are desirable places to live, work, and visit. They include housing in varying income ranges, jobs, an improved environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, and amenities like entertainment venues, parks, and retail –all within a short walk from a transit stop.

But while everyone can agree that TOD provides positive change, not all communities know how to implement it. That’s why the Federal Transit Administration has launched a National TOD Ladders of Opportunity Technical Assistance Initiative, which will provide support for transit-oriented development activities...

Navy Yard metro
New offices rise next to the WMATA Navy Yard Metro Station in Southeast Washington, D.C. Credit: kmf164 on Flickr
Continue Reading Helping Transit Transform ››
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Today, we opened a Smart City Challenge for mayors and city leaders across America to integrate emerging technology into their transportation networks and define what it means to be a Smart City when it comes to transportation.

We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships, and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking urban transportation network looks like...

Continue Reading Smart City Challenge seeks ››
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