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.
When we walk through department stores, supermarkets, and even car dealerships we see everything to buy but don’t always remember how it got there. Every day millions of trucks, trains, airplanes, ships and barges move across our highways, local roads, railways, navigable waterways, and pipelines transporting tons of raw materials and finished products from the entire spectrum of our economy.
In 2045, we expect to have to move even more of this freight. But how much more? We estimate that we will have to move 40 percent more freight in order to accommodate an additional 70 million people. So we need to prepare for the future, and we’re asking for your input.
Today marks World Health Day–an opportunity for us to join the World Health Organization in celebrating its founding and draw world-wide attention to our global health. This year they are focusing on how we can #beatdiabetes. While the intersection of health and transportation isn’t always obvious, I believe there are a number of connections hidden in plain sight.
Studies just last year showed that growing portion of households would prefer to drive less and rely more on walking, cycling and public transit. Researchers have found that people who regularly use public transportation walk more than those who don’t. However, each year about 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical appointments due to lack of a ride to the doctor. These numbers are proof positive of the need for our transportation system to be inclusive and expansive in its design, and here at the department we are helping to make that happen.
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.