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When we talk about using transportation to connect people more effectively to good jobs, health care, and other important services, we're not just talking about America's cities.  Millions of rural Americans also face transportation challenges.  And this morning I spoke with folks gathered for the National Rural Assembly about the barriers that disproportionately affect rural people and places, and what we can do about it.

Residents of rural communities often must drive or commute longer distances to get to work, school, or medical appointments.  In fact, Americans in rural areas drive nearly a trillion miles combined annually --a trillion.  However, far too many rural roads and bridges are neglected –overdue for repair or replacement.

For example, last year in Claiborne County, Mississippi, no fewer than 60 of the county's bridges were rated “deficient.”  Some bridges are so weak that school buses have to find alternative routes –often involving extensive detours. Among other costs, this means that Claiborne's students are spending more time on the road and less time in classrooms or at home with their families.

This is the opportunity cost of not investing in transportation: Every minute spent in traffic or on a detour or waiting for a bus is a minute that could be spent learning, working, or spending time with family...

Bridge Closed sign

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In Texas, they’re used to doing things in a big way and the new LBJ Express in Dallas is no exception. Today's opening of this project was big in a number of ways.

Big as in a $2.6 billion project, including $1.2 billion in federal aid, including a big ($850 million) loan from our Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

The LBJ Express also rebuilds one of the busiest stretches of roadway in north Texas and in the process, improves mobility by nearly doubling the road's existing capacity and adding managed toll lanes.  That’s important when you live in America’s second-fastest growing city...

Photo of LBJ Express ribbon-cutting

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Seattle’s industrial district in the south of the city is one of our nation’s busiest intermodal transportation hubs.  The interplay among ships, trains, and trucks exchanging cargo destined for U.S. points of delivery or export markets overseas churns incessantly day and night.  To someone new to the Pacific Northwest, the area South of Downtown –known locally as “SoDo”– would seem an unlikely first choice as an ideal spot for a relaxing bicycle ride or leisurely stroll. 

But an increasing number of bicyclists and pedestrians are looking for connections between SoDo and downtown, and finding ways to protect their safety as they navigate a sea of freight activity is important.

One year ago this week, Secretary Foxx announced the “Safer People, Safer Streets - Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative,” and one of the first steps in that initiative called for DOT field offices to lead non-motorized traffic, road-safety assessments in cities across the country.  I am proud that the Washington State Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration answered that call, leading a DOT team with folks from NHTSA, FHWA, and FTA in an assessment of the safety challenges facing bicyclists and pedestrians along the SoDo commuter route.

Biking amid trucks in Seattle

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Earlier this week, the Federal Railroad Administration made available to States $10 million in grants to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track on routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol.

Highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities.  And, while the number of fatalities has decreased for the last several decades, the number actually increased last year for the first time this decade. This is a particularly dangerous trend in an era when the volume of energy shipments by rail has increased dramatically.

That's why FRA strongly encourages States with innovative ideas and solutions to apply for these important safety grants.

This week's grant solicitation is just the latest of more than two dozen DOT actions taken in the past two years to increase the safety of transporting energy products by rail...

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Along our northern border from New York to Minnesota, you'll find the ports, locks, and waterways that make up the Great Lakes -Saint Lawrence Seaway System. The bi-national Seaway is a vital artery for trade into and out of the United States and Canada, supporting $34.6 billion of economic activity and 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada.

The Seaway is also an important part of the heritage of many Great Lakes tribes and communities; in fact, its history as a source of sustenance and as a key trade avenue dates back to an era before either Canada or the United States were founded.

The Seaway's cultural and economic significance require us to make significant efforts to protect the Seaway and ensure its continued viability as a safe and effective commercial and recreational waterway. That's why the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) works closely with local, tribal, state, and federal agencies to prepare for a quick and safe response in case of a vessel incident.

Every year, we participate in exercises to mitigate the impact of an incident on both the local environment and Seaway navigation...

Boom deployment

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It's no secret that freight rail and rail transit services are growing. With transit ridership breaking records year after year and expanded domestic fuel production putting more energy freight on the network, the rail industry in North America just continues to grow. This growing demand for rail services is exactly why the new Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Rail Tech and Engineering Center (RailTEC) is so important.

Last month, I had the pleasure of touring the new lab and helping celebrate its official opening.  There's no question that this world-class facility --funded by DOT's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, the Federal Railroad Administration, railroads, and rail industry suppliers-- underscores RailTEC’s status as a national leader for rail transportation research and innovation.

Group photo from RAIL  ribbon cutting

DOT's University Transportation Centers (UTC) program supports critical transportation research at competitively selected colleges and universities like Illinois around the country. As the lead UTC for rail research, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign works with rail industry leaders and state organizations to ensure that the research and curriculum continue to be relevant and timely...

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Today is September 1, but don't let that fool you. The 114th Congress has another week left in its August recess. What does that mean for Fast Lane readers? There's still time to #ShowUsYourInfraWear!

That's right, our summer vacation campaign to demonstrate how your community would benefit from Federal transportation funding continues on Instagram and on Twitter [external link]--where much to our delight the campaign took on its own momentum.

If you've been following the hashtag for the past 31 days, then you've seen some good snaps of crumbling bridges, damaging pavement, disappearing bike lanes, missing sidewalks, treacherous bus stops, and a host of other symptoms of an America that needs to invest more aggressively in how we move people and freight...

Continue Reading It's September but ››
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As summer winds down, Americans will be enjoying family vacations and Labor Day picnics.  Not so for our friends in law enforcement.  They will be working hard to make sure that summer’s final days aren’t filled with the ultimate tragedy for families and communities —alcohol related crash deaths.

From August 21 through September 7, members of more than 10,000 state and local law enforcement agencies will be on the roads as part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown on drunk driving.

They will have zero tolerance for drivers caught with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, the legal limit of alcohol concentration found within the bloodstream...

Drive Sober print ad

Continue Reading Celebrate Labor Day, Yes, ››
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2015 Truck Driving ChampionshipsFor four days every August, approximately 450 of the trucking industry’s safest and most skilled drivers -along with more than 50 of law enforcement’s finest truck and bus inspectors- compete in their respective professions in an event that has been held jointly for the past 23 years. Both the National Truck Driving Championships and the North American Inspectors Championship recognize the individual knowledge, skills, and performance integral to highway safety.

And every year, competitors demonstrate that safety is not an impossible dream, but an achievable goal.

At the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, we're focused on reducing the number and the severity of crashes involving large trucks and buses.  While our goal is to make sure unsafe commercial vehicles and drivers are prevented from operating on our roadways, we recognize the majority of motor carriers and their drivers are focused on ensuring that every traveler reaches their destination safely. That was evident again this year at the 2015 championships.

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Cross-posted courtesy of MDOT: you can find the original post at http://ow.ly/MBEPB.

MDOTBiloxi, Miss. – The havoc unleashed by Hurricane Katrina was unlike anything the Mississippi Gulf Coast had ever seen. Bridges destroyed. Communities cut off from each other. Lives changed forever.

With so many communities along the Coast cut off from each other, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) recognized the need to quickly identify and provide solutions that would reconnect the people of South Mississippi.

“The response to Katrina’s devastation included more than the repair and replacement of critical roads and bridge infrastructure,” said Transportation Commissioner Tom King. “Residents of the region also needed access to local transportation options that connected them to destinations such as work, health care and disaster assistance centers.”

These options included public, as well as emergency response, shuttle and specialized transit services that not only met immediate needs, but also could be part of the ongoing process of rebuilding the Gulf Coast...

MDOT4

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