If we want to be a nation where everyone is connected – where transportation is a thread that knits communities together – then we need to make sure our infrastructure design is as inclusive as it can be. Transportation infrastructure choices made at the Federal, State and local levels can strengthen communities, create pathways to jobs, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.
A majority of transportation infrastructure planning is done at the local level, so we are working to empower state and local leaders to use existing resources to support transformative transportation projects in their communities. Cities like Baltimore and Richmond prove that by prioritizing local needs while ensuring that everyone has access to safe, efficient, and reliable transportation, we can simultaneously expand connectivity and access to opportunity.
All week, the nation is celebrating Public Service Recognition Week to uplift the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local employees. We honor their dedication and service fueled by their efforts to come together to change our country for the better. DOT alone employs almost 55,000 people across the country, in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and its Operating Administrations and bureaus. So I must highlight their work over the past 50 years that continues to keep citizens safe and connected to their communities through our vast transportation system.
For the next 5 days, nationwide, we celebrate National Small Business Week and the theme “Dream Big, Start Small” because as President Obama said, “Across America, small businesses support economies, employ local residents, and contribute to the vibrancy of their communities.”
That’s why I’m proud that this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) earned an “A+” rating on the federal government’s annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard – one of three federal agencies to receive the highest grade for meeting its small business federal contracting goals in FY2015. What’s more, this is the seventh consecutive year DOT has received an “A” or higher rating for continued commitment to America’s small businesses.
Traffic in the Mile High City is already challenging, and getting worse. Even more chokepoints are in store for Denver and the rapidly growing Rocky Mountain region unless the right transportation solutions are found. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is taking this challenge seriously and has embarked on numerous transportation projects in the last few years to address gridlock.
In April, CDOT expanded capacity on I-25 by adding an Express Lane in each direction between US 36 and 120th Avenue. Denver-area transportation planners have a stellar history in addressing the region’s growth and are not new to megaprojects, such as the T-REX, that have improved traffic flow, expanded transportation options and transformed the area.
What does the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) have in common? As experts would say, “It’s all in the timing.” Last week, I got the chance to attend a demonstration at the NYSE on Enhanced Loran (eLoran), a precision-timing technology for financial transactions. eLoran is one of several technologies being considered to provide a complementary timing solution to existing GPS technology.
As the lead civil federal agency for GPS, the U.S. Department of Transportation has a huge responsibility to represent the myriad of civil GPS applications, not only for transportation, but applications ranging from operations of first responders, search and rescue, weather forecasting, earthquake monitoring, surveying and mapping, precision agriculture, and…of course…financial transactions. We accomplish this through our Office of Positioning, Navigation and Timing & Spectrum Management (PNT).
When approaching the scene of any severe accident, the assessments and decisions made by first responders is critical. Their vigilance remains just as important when arriving on the scene of a potentially dangerous hazardous materials (hazmat) incident, to ensure the safety of the public and themselves. It is essential that they’re equipped with the knowledge and current information to make the hard decisions during those first critical moments.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) makes it a priority to deliver that knowledge directly to first responders. This week, PHMSA released its 2016 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) designed to help first responders identify specific risks associated with compromised hazmat items, how to protect themselves, and procedures for containing the incident as quickly and safely as possible.
Earlier this year Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wrote to Fast Lane readers about her desire to ensure safe and reliable transportation access to the people of Baltimore, no matter their neighborhood, saying that “transportation is such an integral part of upward mobility.” And she is right, transportation can and should bring opportunity to your front door.
So, this morning, we continued to put our words into action and broke ground on the “Re-Connect West Baltimore” project.
As you may know, I spent the last week in Northern Europe to take part in an innovation exchange revealing how cities are getting smarter about transportation, most specifically bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure. While there, I was joined by key department staff and mayors who are taking part in my Mayors' Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets - some of whom are finalists in the Smart City Challenge.
Let me first acknowledge the tremendous opportunity to be surrounded by the leadership of Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands who, like me, are dedicated to an efficient, safe and inclusive transportation network. As we work to help define what it means to be an American “Smart City,” and lead the country in planning for the challenges of the future, I was excited to discuss how we make our neighborhoods here at home more inclusive, multi-modal, and improve access to economic opportunity.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is committed to advancing the safe operation of the nation’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines, and each year in April we reaffirm that commitment as we observe National Safe Digging month. Excavation damage to underground pipelines is the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents and can result in property damage, injury and death – between 1988 and 2014, excavation damage was the cause of 1,815 pipeline accidents in the United States.
To further advance the safe digging message at every possible level, PHMSA has launched “Each One…Outreach to One,” a grassroots initiative aimed at bringing greater awareness to damage prevention, calling 8-1-1 and enforcement of excavation laws by encouraging each individual to reach out to just one other person in their community about calling 811 before digging.
If you stand on the deck of the USS Constellation in Baltimore, you can look up and see an intricate web-work of running rigging, sails, wooden “spars” and even the elevated “fighting tops,” from which turn-of-the-century gunners fired down on the enemies of the United States. For more than 200 years, America’s ships, ports, lighthouses and waterways have been used by generations of mariners to build, defend and sustain our way of life in the United States. Separately and together, each vessel, pier and aging towpath tells a story about our history that needs to be heard.
That’s why the Maritime Administration, in partnership with the National Park Service, recently provided approximately $2.6 million in Maritime Heritage Program grants for projects in 19 states. These funds will be used to repair and restore a vast array of sites integral to our Nation’s maritime history, as well as help to launch a variety of historic exhibits, education programs and online resources. Since 2014, more than $5 million has been provided in two rounds of heritage grants to keep our maritime heritage alive.