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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. 

SLSDC Administrator Betty Sutton and other officials at the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway

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. 

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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.

Picture of MARAD Administrator and maritime women

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.

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At the U.S. DOT, we like to talk about Ladders of Opportunity. That means that when we’re making an investment in transportation infrastructure, we don’t just look at how it will move people around, but how it will move them upward.

There are many ways to do that, but a few key areas tend to stand out, such as how the project will improve access to things like jobs, healthcare, and education. Whether it’s a rapid bus that stops at a community college, a light rail stop at a major medical center, or a streetcar that brings revitalization to an under-served neighborhood, public transportation has a unique ability to pave the way for economic and social mobility in a way that is personal and tangible.

US Secretary Foxx Speaking at Seattle Ladders of Opportunity Event

Secretary Foxx has made Ladders of Opportunity a cornerstone of his tenure. I was so happy to join him and a great group of community leaders in Seattle for the grand opening of the University Link light rail extension.

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I had the pleasure of returning home to Charlotte, North Carolina, this week for a Southeast Rail Forum hosted by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) International and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. While there, however, I had to deliver a tough message –  a necessary message – about the reality of transportation in the fast-growing region.

A wave of population growth is going to hit the Southeast –  we can expect another 13 million people and a significant increase in the movement of freight by 2045. This means that local and State leaders must move quickly to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the Region’s rail network and establish a Southeast Rail Commission to advance it or risk being stuck in traffic for a very long time. While progress over the years has been steady, we are still inching along instead of sprinting. We cannot afford to wait another generation to get to the finish line.

Picture of the Cities Sprinter Amtrak locomotive

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This weekend kicks off the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., and honors the lasting friendship between the U.S. and Japan. It’s a favorite event for Washingtonians and visitors alike. 

I hope you can get outdoors, enjoy the festivities, and take photos and video of the Nation’s Capital in bloom. But please, leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is releasing a new video today to remind the public that it is against the law to fly a drone anywhere in Washington, D.C. The National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Washington, D.C., area is strictly a No Drone Zone. We appreciate the National Park Service's partnership in this important public safety education effort.

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Central to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s mission of helping Americans drive, ride, and walk safely is keeping vehicles with safety defects off of our roads. In the wake of back-to-back record years of safety recalls, the agency has worked to reform how it investigates vehicles and equipment with safety defects and ensures that they’re recalled and fixed. The U.S. Department of Transportation and 18 automakers recently finalized a historic agreement on a set of broad-ranging actions to help make our roads safer and to avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting.

Our goal is a more proactive approach to recalls, one that prevents vehicles with defects from ever reaching our roads. But we’ve also known for some time that NHTSA needs a stronger hand to deal with companies that break the rules.

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In the U.S. and beyond, natural gas is an ever-present source of energy that we rely on in our daily lives. We use natural gas to heat our homes during the winter, fuel our cooktops and bbq grills, and, sometimes, even power our vehicles. Most people know that it comes from within the earth, like other commonly used fossil fuels. But how does it travel from deep underground to the back of your stove?

The answer lies within the nation’s two million-plus mile gas pipeline network, which consists of gathering lines that move gas from production sites to central collection sites; transmission lines that transport gas at high pressures over long distances from producing to consuming regions in great volumes; and distribution lines that supply natural gas to local customers, like your house or apartment building. If adopted, the rule would add new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines and expand safety standards to include previously unregulated gathering pipelines.

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Last weekend, I traveled to South by Southwest to announce the seven city finalists of our Smart City Challenge, a competition to help one mid-sized U.S. city create a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind transportation network that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future.

Each of these finalists will receive $100,000 to build out their vision, including submitting budgets and expanding their proposals. The Department also plans to spend the next three months working with each city to develop their proposals and transform roadmaps into renderings.

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In January of last year, I issued a challenge to elected officials to make America’s streets safer for people walking and biking.  Since then, 243 cities and other local jurisdictions have signed up to the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, with more signing up all the time. 

Today I am excited to announce the Mayors’ Challenge Awards to highlight the great work cities are doing, and stimulate further action on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. Awards will be considered for work relating to the seven Challenge Activities, as well as for Ladders of Opportunity, and for active engagement in Challenge events. We will ask cities to submit a descriptive narrative about their successes since joining the Challenge and we will announce the winners at a Capstone event here in Washington, DC. We will invite winners to present at the Capstone, and to a special recognition event. Click here for more information about the awards and the selection process. 


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March is Women’s History Month, and, although we are always looking for innovative ways to get more women and girls interested in careers in transportation, this month allows us to focus more clearly on this goal.  

Since the founding of the United States women have played an integral role in the development and advancement of transportation. From wagons and horse carts to bicycles, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and space shuttles, women have served as inventors, pilots, engineers, drivers, administrative professionals, conductors, and executives, and in a host of other vital occupations.


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