Each day on this blog we highlight the ways in which transportation has connected us as a nation. Just think, before our highway system, that cross-country road trip you are planning for the summer would have been nearly impossible.
But today, in my speech at the Center for American Progress, I sought to inform on how past transportation infrastructure decisions have divided us.
Nothing in our built environment is accidental. And it’s no different in transportation – intentional design can be seen in all forms of transportation infrastructure – transit systems, airports, railroads and ports. But this intentional design is especially evident in our nation’s highway system.
Throughout the Department we are doing all we can to ensure that transportation, connectivity and opportunity are synonymous. Today, FTA reinforced that message by announcing close to $300 million in funding opportunities available to states, transit agencies and native tribes to help ensure that our buses and bus systems continue to connect our nation’s residents to opportunity.
With our population slated to grow by 70 million in the next 30 years it is critical our transportation network is in lock step with that growth. It’s easy to pigeon hole public transit solutions to our rail systems, however, buses account for nearly half of all transit trips nationwide – adding up to over 5 billion rides in 2015 alone. These bus fleets are virtually unmatched in their power to get millions of Americans where they need to go.
But people can’t go there, if they can’t get there.
This month, NHTSA did something different.
We stood side-by-side with 20 automakers and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) as the automakers announced that they will make automatic emergency braking (AEB) standard on virtually all new cars and light trucks by Sept. 1, 2022.
AEB systems help prevent crashes or reduce their severity by applying the brakes for the driver. The systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras, or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver, and apply the brakes if the driver does not take action quickly enough. But until this agreement, AEB was mostly only available as a pricey add-on feature in luxury vehicles. NHTSA believes that the benefits of these safety technologies should be available to all car buyers, not just those who shop for luxury models.
Each spring, more than one million people flock to the Tidal Basin to view Washington, DC’s famous and picturesque cherry blossoms. Thousands of those eager visitors arrive to the Nation’s Capital by bus, and we at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) want to ensure they’re traveling safely here and back home.
Investing in transportation infrastructure is critical for the economy and for the safety and wellbeing of our citizens. By the end of this decade, the American Society of Civil Engineers predicts we will face a $1 trillion funding gap for transportation. To address this shortfall, we must use every tool available, including public private partnerships or P3s, which offer an opportunity to tap new financing sources, transfer certain project delivery risks, and lock-in long-term, high-quality performance.
The road to a career in transportation isn’t always linear. At times, finding that specific career path is akin to taking a drive in the country without a GPS or even a map. Intersections and detours may put you in a place where you’ve never been. However, sometimes heading down the road less traveled leads to great things.
So how did Dr. Dana Peck find herself in a Data Fellow position at the U.S. Department of Transportation?
For Dr. Peck, her original plans didn’t include steering wheels, traffic signals and rail crossings. At Northeastern University, she was focused on renewable energy sources and a wind tunnel project. A recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Grant, she entered into her graduate work at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) interested in energy efficiency and renewable energies.
2014 CMU T-SET UTC Student of the Year Dr. Dana Peck (center), accepts her award from USDOT Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Greg Winfree (right), and University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Professor Shashi Nambisan (left). (Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University)
Last April, I had the pleasure to accompany Secretary Foxx on his first visit to India, which happened on the heels of President Obama’s meetings with Indian Prime Minister Modi. During our visit, the Secretary announced India’s return to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 status, signed a new Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) encompassing several Ministries with a special focus on multi-modal transportation, and announced an initiative to partner with India on the transportation elements of “Smart Cities.”
My return to India comes nearly one year after DOT’s signing of the multi-modal MOC, and I have never been more excited about our partnership. Last week, I visited New Delhi and Hyderabad. In Hyderabad, I opened Aviation India 2016 air show alongside the Indian Minister of Civil Aviation, where I celebrated India’s one year anniversary of achieving Category 1. I also had a chance to meet with U.S. aviation companies and the newly formed India chapter of Women in Aviation.
As we continue with our conversations on freight planning in cities around the country, we are delighted to have new funding opportunities to talk about with the new Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants.
As authorized by the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, the grants are funded at $4.5 billion for Fiscal Years 2016-2020, including up to $800 million for FY2016. With these grants and the formula funds in the National Highway Freight Program, we have – for the first time in USDOT's 50-year history – dedicated, multiyear funding for freight infrastructure.
Tucson, Charlotte and New Orleans join countless cities nationwide to benefit from the program. Our challenge as a nation is to make sure we have the infrastructure to handle more goods movement to continue to promote economic growth and opportunity and be equipped to compete internationally.
That’s why our conversations are centered on the Draft National Freight Strategic Plan and we continue to ask business, transportation, and state and local government leaders attending our roundtables to provide us with their feedback on where to make targeted investments in freight transportation and on how we can strengthen our freight transportation system.
Yesterday, the St. Lawrence Seaway System officially began its 58th navigation season with the transit of the first vessel, the Thunder Bay. I was in St. Catharines, Ontario for the kickoff of the official opening, joining the crowd in welcoming this brand new state-of-the art Trillium class vessel into the Seaway System. This new class of vessel sets high standards in operational and energy efficiency, reliability and environmental protection.
Just as the private sector is investing in new vessels, public sector investments in lock rehabilitation, port infrastructure, and new navigation technologies are laying the foundation for sustained future growth of the Seaway System. We began an Asset Renewal Program (ARP) in Fiscal Year 2009 to modernize the 55-year-old U.S. Seaway infrastructure. In the first seven years of the program, the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) has spent $109 million on 50 separate projects to keep our assets in the best condition possible.
Women in transportation have and continue to forge a path that has led our industry to great heights. As President Barack Obama said in his 2016 Women’s History Month Proclamation, “In the face of discrimination and undue hardship, they have never given up on the promise of America: that with hard work and determination, nothing is out of reach.” While we remember the courageous women of our past, I want to acknowledge the women who will continue to shape our future.
Last week, I had the opportunity to travel to the California Maritime Academy (CMA) in Vallejo for a visit and to speak to an auditorium full of well-respected maritime leaders, seasoned professionals and students participating in the 8th Annual Women on the Water (WOW) Conference which was combined with CMA’s 5th Annual Pearls of Power (POP) Conference. Each year, the WOW event attracts educators from local and State Maritime Academies, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and maritime executives together with Cadets and Midshipmen (and even some prospective students) to explore the opportunities of the maritime industry.