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Heads up – motorcycles are everywhere! Today marks the annual Ride to Work Day – in 2000, the non-profit organization, Ride to Work, was formed to help organize and promote routine use of motorcycles and scooters for transportation. In 2008, the third Monday in June was adopted to climatically better accommodate riders world-wide, and to give more riders an opportunity to participate. And every year as the weather heats up across the U.S., we are urged through various safety campaigns to be extra vigilant for riders.

But what if technology could help us all be safer as we share the roads with two, four or more-wheeled vehicles? What if there was a way for motorcycle riders to know of dangers ahead of time, potentially avoiding crashes in the first place? 

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Earlier today, I was on hand to help state and local officials in Los Angeles County open the $88.7 million Nogales Street Grade Separation Project which will improve safety, reduce noise and emissions, and enhance freight movement throughout southern California. The project is central to the $4.6 billion Alameda Corridor East (ACE) Trade Corridor Improvement Plan in Southern California, which is using $125 million in federal funds, to connect the nation’s rail network to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The project, which relied on $22 million in federal funding, separates the two major rail lines, BNSF and Union Pacific, from local highways in the City of Industry, a suburb of Los Angeles.

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Like millions of other Americans, I ride public transportation to work. As both a passenger and transportation safety professional, when I walk past the station manager, security personnel, and other transit workers each morning, I see the necessary safety measures in place to protect passengers. Many transit workers, however, have a very different experience.

These workers see how fare disputes can quickly escalate to a physical assault. They know first-hand how an agitated passenger instigates an altercation with a transit worker. They hear the tenseness in a customer’s voice as a complaint escalates into a verbal tirade that could potentially turn violent.

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Are you an entrepreneur who lives and breathes innovation?  Do you have the next big idea that will change the way we move people and goods across the country?  Or have you discovered the best way to use technology to more effectively manage traffic and improve our commutes to the office?  Well, so do the competitors in ITS America’s “The Intelligent Pitch.”  

All week ITS America 2016 San Jose has brought together the best of transportation, tech, innovation, the public and private sectors, research and academia. Today, the best and brightest innovators gathered for “The Intelligent Pitch,” transportation's very own version of Shark Tank. 

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When I visit Rhode Island, one of the first things I notice its extensive water resources available for tourism, sports and commerce not to mention the ability to move people from one place to another.  Next, I think about the  dynamic men and women working on and near the water in the maritime industries and businesses including ship construction and repair that support the State’s long-term economic prosperity.  Boasting over 400 miles of coastline, it’s easy to see why maritime is a central part of the “Ocean State’s” heritage as well as the key to its economic future. 

I saw this first hand last week when I joined Senator Jack Reed and Governor Gina Raimondo, along with other state and local officials, to christen the Port of Providence’s latest asset, a new crane barge christened the SANDY C.   Funded, in part, by a $10.5 million Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the SANDY C, along with two high performance mobile cranes delivered in 2013, are literally transforming the port into a modern marine cargo center. 

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At a time of growing demand and aging infrastructure, one of the transportation industry’s greatest challenge has nothing to do with concrete and steel. It's: how can we attract, educate, and retain a workforce that has both the skills and the numbers to keep our nation moving? Unless we work together to address the looming shortage of workers, buses are going to be behind schedule; rail systems will see delays; and slowed maintenance will mean that vehicles will have more breakdowns and higher operating costs.

The transportation industry – and transit in particular – is facing a “demographic cliff,” with record retirements and too few ready to take their place.

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You don’t need a time traveling DeLorean to catch glimpses of the future of transportation in San Jose this week.  ITS America – The Intelligent Transportation Society of America – has come to town, bringing with it all manner of amazing technology.  Streetlights that recognize pedestrians and send warning messages to approaching cars. Traffic signals that apply data analytics to learn patterns of congestion and automatically adapt timing to improve flow.  Kiosks containing laser scanners that can count cars and measure speeds across multiple lanes of traffic.  The exhibit hall is basically a candy store for transportation technology.

USDOT is right in the middle of all of this.

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As we make our way through the year-long 50th anniversary celebration – we are reminded that the Department as well as the industry has long fostered a culture for innovation. Each day here on the Fast Lane we’ve highlighted the forward-thinking programs, pilots and initiatives that align with this month’s theme of Transportation Innovation.

Almost halfway through the month of June we’ve talked about advances and research in Vehicle to Pedestrian technology and what that will look like for transit-focused cities of the future. Our partners at FAA have ensured that the NextGen program has and will continue to make a difference.

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Last week, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and I signed a Programmatic Biological Opinion -- an important document pledging our two agencies to do more to protect endangered Indiana bats, and threatened northern long-eared bats, in 37 states and the nation’s capital.

As I see it, safety is our top priority -- even for the endangered species which make their homes in the ecosystems along America’s roadways. This is good news for the environmental community, and something we need to see more of.

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It has been described as the Department’s version of The Voice and a wonked-out reality competition, and yesterday, we saw yet again that the Smart City Challenge is doing exactly what we anticipated:  encouraging local leaders to ply the intersections of technology, innovation, and equity in order to improve the lives of Americans in cities nationwide.

Since launching the challenge in December, 78 applicant cities were whittled down to seven finalists, and yesterday all seven mayors from the finalist cities joined me and a packed crowd at the Long View Gallery to make their final pitch for “Tomorrowland”.

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