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Last February, a CSX train hauling tank cars filled with crude oil from North Dakota to a transportation terminal in Yorktown, Virginia, derailed near Mount Carbon, West Virginia. Numerous tankers exploded, sending up plumes of black smoke and igniting a fire that burned for days, destroyed one home, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Our Federal Railroad Administration immediately responded to the derailment and began investigating. And last week, following that thorough investigation, the FRA announced that a broken rail caused this derailment. The broken rail itself resulted from what the rail industry calls a vertical split head rail defect, a defect that CSX and its contractor, Sperry Rail Service, failed to identify during two separate inspections in the months leading up to the accident.

But our work doesn't end when we determine the cause of a derailment; in fact, that's when the important, forward-thinking work of preventing future derailments begins...

FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg
FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg making the announcement in Mt. Carbon.
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Let’s say you work for a public transit agency, and you are trying to respond to a question about accommodating a passenger who uses a service dog. You consult the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) transportation regulations to find an answer, but in the regulation, service animal provisions appear in three different places. You want to be sure you’re giving the right answer.

With the release of the Federal Transit Administration’s ADA Circular last week, we've clarified the ADA and its complex rules, making it easier for you –and transit agencies across the country– to find a definitive answer.

By making sense of the lengthy regulations, FTA furthers the goal of ensuring transportation access for all. We know that public transportation provides a lifeline to jobs, education, medical care and other critical services. And we want to be sure that everyone, regardless of age or ability, has an opportunity to ride...

Continue Reading From FTA, a practical guide ››
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As our population grows by 70 million over the next 30 years, we know that a boom in freight demand is coming.

At the same time, we know that the median age of America's truck drivers --the folks who we'll need to move and deliver that freight-- is higher (49) than the median age of all workers (42), so we can expect a wave of driver retirements just when we'll need more and more drivers. We also know that the trucking industry is already experiencing a shortage of drivers right now, with the American Trucking Associations indicating a need to hire 47,500 drivers this year alone, just to meet existing demand.

To trucking industry experts, the combination of those trends sounds like a perfect storm. 

Fortunately, America's military Veterans, the men and women who have already served their nation so well, might be called to serve again --this time behind the wheel. And last week, our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced nearly $2.3 million in grants to 13 technical and community colleges across the country to help train veterans and their families for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.

Photo of college classroom with students, some veterans

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While the Federal Highway Administration continues to innovate toward the future, we also know it’s important to address issues that have concerned roadway engineers in the past.  Design flexibility is one of those areas that have interested State DOTs and local governments for a while. And today, we're proposing to revise current policies to encourage road design that is better tailored to community needs.

Flexibility means that state, city, and county engineers can develop projects --such as lower-speed roads-- that meet the needs of a full range of users -drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.  We also want those projects to support communities’ environmental needs and to connect people to work, school, health care, and other essential services.  

These benefits are at the heart of our emphasis on making sure transportation projects create access to opportunity for all users of America's roads...

Seattle's Dexter Road

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After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, federal agencies scrambled to respond. Last night, I was privileged to be in the audience as Secretary Foxx gave one of the country’s most prestigious awards for federal service to a Federal Transit Administration employee who was instrumental in that response.

Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Adam Schildge, who was awarded a Partnership for Public Service "Samuel J. Heyman Service to America" medal, or "Sammie."

Photo of Adam Schildge at the Sammies 2015 award podium
Adam Schildge accepting the 2015 Call To Service medal for professional achievements reflecting the contributions a new generation brings to public service.
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Last year, data from our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that America's highway fatality rate had dropped to its lowest point ever. And a recent NHTSA study shows that new vehicle safety technologies --from seat belts to electronic stability control-- saved 614,000 lives.

The vehicles we drive today are loaded with technology, and they are safer than they've ever been. But we're not stopping there. In coming years, connected vehicle technologies like crash-avoidance systems and automated driving will very likely change the game.

But one thing we know is that vehicle safety features only work when drivers know how to use them.  And as our vehicles become more and more complicated, that's no easy task. The National Safety Council and the University of Iowa are changing that with the new website, https://mycardoeswhat.org...

Screenshot of MyCarDoesWhat.org

Continue Reading For greater road safety, ››
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This week, in San Francisco, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has been holding its annual meeting. And when I spoke with APTA folks on Monday night, I found myself reflecting on the thoughts on opportunity I shared with Fast Lane readers last week.

A strong economy, health, education, housing and job skills are all pillars of opportunity. But they are not the only pillars. There is one more, and that is transportation. It’s time for us –the community of transportation planners, engineers, contractors, and decision-makers– to embrace our role in closing the opportunity gap.

During APTA, DOT took another step toward managing for opportunity. We launched a transit-oriented development initiative focused on revitalizing economically distressed communities...

APTA annual meeting logo

Continue Reading Transit community, pioneers ››
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Today, thousands of students, parents, community leaders, and state and local officials across the United States are walking and bicycling to school for Walk To School Day. More than 4,500 different events are planned to celebrate the benefits of more physical activity and safer transportation environments for our Nation's kids.

Walk to School Day in the U.S. --which started in 1997 with a single school-- is part of an international effort in more than 40 countries to celebrate these benefits and to encourage more families to consider getting out of the car and onto their feet.

After all, walking improves children's health, prepares them for the school day, and helps keep emissions out of the air they breathe...

Walk To School Day in Milwaukee
Many thanks to the Milwaukee Police Department for supporting Walk To School Day (and for this photo)!
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What’s your favorite water cooler conversation topic at work? Sports? The latest TV episode? Your kids?

What about safe driving?

That’s the topic the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) hopes you’ll make time for during their Drive Safely Work Week, which runs from October 5 to October 9...

Web banner announcing Drive Safely Work Week

Continue Reading Drive Safely Work Week ››
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As we've all seen in the news, South Carolina is currently experiencing one of its worst natural disasters in the form of massive flooding. Today, Secretary Foxx announced the immediate availability of $5 million in emergency relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration to the South Carolina DOT.

With miles of flood-damaged roads closed, the first step in the state's recovery is getting essential traffic flowing on key routes. The funds announced today will help SCDOT begin immediately repairing the roads and bridges most critical to relief efforts...

Map of road and bridge closures in South Carolina

Continue Reading DOT makes available $5 ››
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