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Over the last six years the amount of crude oil being transported by rail has increased approximately 5,000 percent—more than ever before in our nation’s history. This significant increase has affected communities along rail lines in many ways: from increased traffic at grade crossings to concerns about leaks, spills, potential derailments or other incidents. 

The Department is doing all we can to ensure that all involved – community members, included- are prepared in the event of an accident. We work especially closely with local law enforcement, emergency responders and hazardous materials professionals to share information and support their efforts to prepare for and respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.  Most recently, we released the Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR) training resource. Developed in conjunction with other public safety agencies, TRIPR leverages the expertise of rail carriers and industry subject matter experts to better prepare first responders to safely manage large-scale incidents involving unit trains transporting flammable liquids. This off-the-shelf training is available online and can be used anywhere throughout the country.

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The world’s greatest highway system raised the standard, again, this past weekend when the Seattle area opened the world’s longest floating bridge. Under the watchful eye of a representative from the Guinness Book of Records, the new bridge measures an impressive 7,710 feet, or 1.5 miles long. That makes it one hundred and thirty feet longer than its predecessor, which in its day was also the world’s longest floating bridge. The new SR 520 bridge is more structurally sound and capable of resisting sustained winds of up to 89 mph. 

This bridge is more than just an engineering marvel; it is an economic lifeline for the Puget Sound region.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) is determined to keep America’s airlines the safest in the world.  It is with that thought in mind that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued a Lithium Ion Battery Safety Advisory on April 1 to notify the general public and shippers of recent actions taken by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to enhance the safe transportation of lithium batteries by air. 

Those ICAO actions include a prohibition on the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo aboard passenger carrying aircraft; a requirement for lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at a state of charge of no more than 30 percent of their rated capacity; and requirement that small packages of so called “Section II” lithium batteries be offered to the operator separately from the general cargo stream and in single package consignments. 

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Industry actions that led to the recent natural gas leak at California’s Aliso Canyon site underscored the serious risk that these storage facilities can pose. Shortly after the Aliso Canyon leak was controlled, we were able to visit the site of the leak to hear from local officials and experts. The visit allowed us to see the magnitude and gravity of this situation, and how it impacted people in California and the environment. It was incredible to see the spirit of partnership and collaboration between State and local agencies across California - along with support from Federal partners - to respond to this incident and to ensure it was resolved safely.  Even so, the fact that this leak happened in the first place, the length of time that it took to fix, and the disruption that it caused for so many people are very concerning.  That’s why we are launching this interagency Task Force, to help companies ensure that no community has to go through something like that again.

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Here at the Department, while we are working hard each day to ensure that transportation accessibility translates into increased economic mobility, safety continues to be our top priority. With more than 10.6 billion passenger trips nationwide in 2015, how can we ensure and improve safety within the public transit industry?

Here’s one part of the answer: You bring together transit leaders from across the country to tackle tough issues and gather their knowledge to help leadership at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) make decisions that will produce long-term benefits.

The Transit Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS), chartered in 2009 to provide advice and recommendations to FTA on transit safety matters, met this week in Washington, DC, to discuss new developments at FTA -including recent safety actions and the status of safety rulemakings – and begin work on their transit safety tasks for 2016: safety culture and safety data/performance management.

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This week, Secretary Foxx has shined a light on how and why transportation and access to opportunity are intimately linked. Here in the Departmental Office of Civil Rights we’ve made it our mission to ensure that understanding resonates not only with civil rights practitioners and transportation industry leadership but also every person who uses our nation’s transportation network.

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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.

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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.

People getting on a Washington DC Metro bus

But people can’t go there, if they can’t get there.

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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.

Dr. Mark Rosekind with representatives from the auto industry and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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.

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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.

 

Continue Reading FMCSA and Our Partners Work ››
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