Americans are stuck in traffic every day on the highways as seemingly a fact of life. But today, the Federal Highway Administration is unveiling a newly proposed rule to tackle the problem head on. FHWA will be requiring State transportation agencies to collect and use better data on actual travel times and to monitor the performance of the nation’s highways. This will help them to make better investment decisions and help ensure a more predictable commute.
FHWA will make system reliability a key performance measure. So, what does that mean?
The Beyond Traffic framework continues to make the case for innovative transportation solutions that address future trends that will affect the way our nation moves people and freight. You’ve heard the numbers. Within 30 years:
70 million people.
45 percent more freight.
This increase will include a drastic population shift from rural to urban areas and we’re already preparing our transportation system to adapt and expand. We have a sense for the challenges and opportunities this presents here at home, so we’re taking our ideas and solutions overseas for an international innovation exchange. Beginning today, I will be participating in roundtables, presentations and panels that highlight transportation’s role in improving quality of life, economic development, and the environment. Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are leaders in such innovation, particularly when it comes to creating bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and developing Smart Cities through technological innovation, so we will visit all three countries.
With over 20 colleges and universities in the Washington, DC metro area, the energy, excitement and commitment to the future that resonates throughout the city are palpable. So you can imagine the atmosphere in College Park, MD when I stopped by the University of Maryland for their Transportation, Innovation and Policy Summit. Based on the theme alone, this was exactly where I wanted to be.
As I walked through the technology showcase, I saw work from our nation’s future transportation leaders and researchers that exhibited just the type of pioneering and innovative thinking our nation needs.
If you happen to be flying through Peoria International Airport, you’ll soon see a familiar name on the walls: former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Long-time readers of the Fast Lane are already familiar with some of Mr. LaHood’s greatest accomplishments as Secretary. He launched a nationwide campaign to end distracted driving, led DOT's Recovery Act investments, and fought for new airline passenger protections, just to name a few.
Leading the development and expansion of America’s Marine Highway system and facilitating its integration into the U.S. surface transportation system is one of the core missions at MARAD. That’s why Secretary Foxx designated three new Marine Highway Projects along the M-55 and M-90 Marine Highway corridors, providing an attractive alternative for companies shipping products along the Mississippi River, between the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in the Great Lakes region. This potentially significant expansion of waterborne freight transportation services could reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in those regions, while giving shippers efficient, economical new options for moving freight.
As our population grows by 70 million people over the next three decades, and domestic freight volumes increase by 45 percent in that same timeframe, the pressure on our roads and highways will exact a devastating toll in infrastructure wear and tear, increased pollution and lost time sitting in traffic. The Marine Highway Program - designed to maximize the potential of our nation’s 29,000 miles of navigable waterways and near coast routes – created 22 all-water Marine Highway Routes to take the pressure off of our roads, highways and bridges.
For good reason, people from across the country have reached out to us here at the Federal Railroad Administration to ask or register concerns about the state of rail bridges in their communities. Many of the rail bridges in the United States were built decades ago, and despite being structurally sound, can appear unsafe. Many of these bridges are in the middle of America’s communities – in downtowns, near commerce, schools and offices. Hazardous materials, along with many other goods, move across these bridges each day.
Rail bridges are owned and maintained by individual railroads. It is each railroad’s responsibility to ensure that bridges are safe, structurally sound and maintained. In 2008, Congress required railroads to establish bridge safety management programs and inspect their bridges annually. And it is our responsibility to review each of these programs, and to conduct random audits of annual inspections.
While we work hard to continue the legacy of innovation and opportunity at the Department we must also highlight how much our work has changed the direction of transportation over the last 50 years. As you know, in celebrating our five decades of public service, we focus our celebration on a different theme each month. Throughout April we’re highlighting Safety.
At our kick-off celebration, Secretary Alan Boyd, our first nation’s first ever transportation Secretary remembered calling on his friends and former colleagues in Congress to vote on legislation requiring seatbelts in all motor vehicles. So, even in its inception, this Department has always prioritized a transportation system rooted in the safe movement of people and things.
Would it surprise you to know that, even though we are actively preparing to move Beyond Traffic, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics has found that a growing number of Americans are using bike-share? According to a new report, as of February 2016, there were 46 bike-share systems operating in the USA, offering a total of 2,655 bike-share stations, with most in close proximity to transit stops.
Last year, the National Association of City Transportation Officials released a study revealing that since 2010, bike-share systems have been introduced in over 30 U.S. cities and riders have taken over 36 million bike share trips
. These bike-share stations are a critical link for commuters. Some 2,291 stations are located within one block of a scheduled public transportation mode such as intercity bus stations, ferry terminals and passenger rail stations. This means that these stations are providing connections that extend the reach of our nation’s transportation network and simultaneously making scheduled public transit much easier to access.
Last month, I asked state and local leaders to be mindful and aware of how all communities are affected as we rebuild and repair our nation’s transportation infrastructure. But what’s most exciting is that solving the transportation challenges of our past, present, and future allows for a level of innovation and creativity we’ve never seen before.
Last December, we launched the Smart City Challenge to address some of the long-term and emerging trends affecting our Nation’s transportation system that are identified in the our Beyond Traffic draft report. We’ve tasked cities with using intelligent transportation technologies like connected, autonomous and electric vehicles and urban automation to reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, respond to climate change, and support economic vitality.
But, in addition to trying to solve these challenges, we have asked how can cities nationwide use transportation technology and innovation to bridge the growing opportunity gap? Last week representatives from our 7 Smart Cities Challenge Finalists and our partners at Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., Mobileye, Autodesk, NXP, Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and Amazon Web Services came to DOT Headquarters for the first of several sessions to show us how.
Tomorrow, FMCSA’s Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg and I will travel to Ohio to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week. Why Ohio? Because we’ll be joined by Amy Fletcher, Beth and Leroy Rizor and Shannon and Jeff Dethlefs. You may not recognize their names but each of them tragically lost family members to drivers in Ohio highway work zones. Their stories are the reason Administrator Nadeau and I are calling on ALL drivers to be safe during this construction season.
On average, three fatalities each day happen in a highway work zone. That means, each day, three families are losing children, brothers, sisters or parents. It’s a tragedy.