Around this time last year, I was wrapping up a national bus tour to galvanize support for long-term transportation funding. Ten years of short-term extensions to our Highway Trust Fund had left roads and bridges in bad shape – congestion was choking economic growth, business owners were finding it harder to ship their goods, and everyday folks were finding it harder to get to work.
So I hit the road to spread the word. After two bus tours and visits to leaders in 43 states, I’m happy to say that we finally received a long-term bill – the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.
Today we began rolling out changes to the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, known as TIFIA, that were mandated by the FAST Act. These changes will allow the Department to expand the types of projects and applicants eligible for TIFIA credit assistance, while also working to streamline the credit review process.
They will allow us to support even more projects with even less money – projects like the Presidio Parkway in San Francisco, the new U.S. 301 in Delaware, and the Cooper River Bridge Replacement in Charleston.
My grandfather worked as a railroad Pullman porter helping to move U.S. troops across the country during World War II. My father and husband both served in our armed forces. As someone who has been surrounded by veterans my entire life, I understand how valuable the strong work ethic, self-discipline and commitment of military service members are to our Nation’s economy.
I was reminded of this earlier today when I attended this year’s Washington Women Speak: Celebrating Women in Military. These highly esteemed women shared their inspiring personal stories of leadership and accomplishment during their military experience.
I’m proud to work at an Agency that actively creates opportunities for America’s veterans. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is involved in several initiatives aimed at helping veterans find post-military careers across the truck and bus industries.
At DOT, we see that innovative ideas and new technologies are offering us an opportunity to improve safety in all modes of transportation.
We also know that the U.S. aviation industry is on the leading edge of generating many of these new technologies and products. In recent years, manufacturers have developed robust and increasingly affordable products that can offer pilots sophisticated weather information and increased situational awareness, along with other safety devices such as seatbelts with built-in airbags.
I’ve been spending a great deal of time talking about how government must work hard to keep up with innovation coming out of the private sector. Both DOT and FAA are mindful of the fact that technology is moving at a pace that requires the government to adopt a fresh, agile, forward-looking regulatory framework to accommodate the industry’s efforts to incorporate the latest technologies into its products.
This is especially important when it comes to aviation. We have the largest and most diverse general aviation community in the world and its overall health is vital to the U.S. economy.
Summary: Yesterday, DOT announced that $2 billion in unspent earmarks can be freed up for states to use for new investments in infrastructure. This is an important milestone in ending the use of earmarks and investing in U.S. infrastructure – but more remains to be done.
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that roughly $2 billion can be freed up for states to use for rebuilding our nation’s transportation system. All of this funding was previously unspent “earmarks” that were more than a decade old, so yesterday’s action takes potentially wasteful pork barrel spending stuffed into transportation bills by Congress and puts it to good use. Instead of sitting idle, these funds will now be available to help improve our infrastructure, keep drivers safe, and provide opportunities for communities nationwide.
These steps build on actions that began in the earliest days of the Obama Administration, when the President worked together with Congress to change the way that business is done in Washington - by increasing transparency and accountability for the way that taxpayer dollars are spent, including helping end transportation earmarks. Today, those efforts are yielding real results. Clearing out this legacy backlog of earmarks frees up stranded dollars to repave roads, fix bridges, or build new interchanges, which will create jobs and lay the foundations for long-term economic growth. Yesterday's action also builds on a similar action taken in August 2012, when USDOT made over $470 million in unspent earmarks immediately available to states for projects that create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.
As March 8 is International Women’s Day, I’d like to highlight a number of women in aviation who are making a real difference in our field.
But first, it's worth mentioning that the Women in Aviation International (WAI) conference takes place later this week in Nashville. WAI has a partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to support each other’s respective missions, and I've borrowed this year's WAI theme --Connect. Engage. Inspire.-- to frame my examples...
U.S. ports and our marine transportation system – and the hardworking men and women behind these operations – are essential drivers of the American economy. Every day, our ports and waterways handle millions of tons of domestic and international cargo, including food and agricultural products, petrochemicals, and automobiles. In 2014 alone, $1.7 trillion worth of U.S. goods moved through our ports, representing 75% of imports and exports by weight.
But ports, like our highways and bridges, face challenges. As a country, we are investing too little, and as container ships grow larger and larger, more cargo must be unloaded into increasingly tight spaces. And ports face unique operational challenges as they move ever-expanding volumes of cargo between ships, trucks and rail lines. Today, not a single U.S. container port is in the top 15 container ports globally according to the Journal of Commerce. Expanding trade will continue to put pressure on the existing system, increasing congestion and threatening U.S. economic competitiveness; looking forward, the demand to move goods and raw materials on the U.S. transportation system is predicted to increase by 45 percent by 2040.
To support U.S. competitiveness in a global economy, it is essential that we expand, upgrade, modernize and maintain our maritime transportation infrastructure and strengthen our workforce. That’s why the Obama Administration has been working to identify opportunities to increase investment in U.S. ports. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $800 million in available funding for the nation’s freight network and highlighted the opportunity for investments in 21st century ports...
Over the last weekend in February, more than 50 app developers, data experts, and civic hackers came together in Washington, DC, to help address barriers to opportunity in the Baltimore-Washington region. During the “Celebrating the Cities – Hack the Last Mile” hackathon, participants built apps, websites, and data visualizations that shed light on the mobility challenges facing lower-income Baltimore and DC residents.
Acting DOT Under Secretary for Policy Carlos Monje welcomed participants on Friday night, sharing the Department’s vision of the critical role transportation plays in connecting Americans to economic opportunity.
Following his keynote, I joined Stephanie Gidigbi, our Director for Strategic Initiatives; Adam Rogal, head of Uber’s API team; and Zuhairah Washington, Uber’s DC General Manager, for a panel discussion. We explained our goals for the hackathon and encouraged attendees to be creative and solution-oriented as they worked through the weekend developing innovative approaches that might improve access to opportunity...
Hackathon winners Team Happy Home.
Proper training is critical for entry-level commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. Currently, no universal training standards exist for new CMV drivers, but this will soon change.
Today, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that reflects the recommendations of a “negotiated rulemaking” committee and responds to a congressional mandate imposed under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) to establish comprehensive national minimum training standards for entry-level truck and bus drivers seeking to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
The latest freight projections are in from our Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and they show that the number of freight tons moving on America’s transportation network is likely to grow by 40 percent in the next 3 decades while the value of freight will almost double, increasing by 92 percent. This affirms the projections in our Beyond Traffic study and reinforces the need to boost our freight capacity and unleash the full power of our nation's economy.
Over the last few years, DOT has issued historic consumer rules protecting the rights of the flying public. And today, we took one more step toward ensuring better treatment of passengers by finalizing a rule that explicitly bans the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) on commercial flights.
The rule applies to all scheduled flights of U.S. and foreign airlines flying in, to, and from the U.S.
While DOT has viewed its current regulatory smoking ban to be sufficiently broad to include the use of e-cigarettes, the prior rule did not explicitly define “smoking.” We took this action to eliminate any confusion between tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes by applying the same restrictions to both...