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On July 2, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, opened its doors to the Class of 2018, 252 young men and women who started their transportation careers last Wednesday as plebe candidates. INDOC Day, as it is known among the Kings Point community, kicks-off a 20-day indoctrination period of intense physical, academic, and regimental training to begin transforming these recent high school graduates into future leaders and licensed maritime officers.

Photo of companies from INDOC Day 2014

Each year, since 2009, USMMA has seen a rise in minority and women candidates. “The new plebe candidates make up one of the most diverse classes at USMMA,” said Superintendent RADM James A. Helis. “Minority enrollment for the Class of 2018 is now at 27.7% and the percentage of women is at 18.6 %.  We are very pleased that the incoming class is more representative of the American demographic than ever before.”

These future mariners representing 46 states and 4 foreign countries also boasted the highest SAT scores of any entering class...

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At a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx talked about agency funding, safety, and challenges from his first year as Secretary. Topics included the solvency of the highway trust fund, the consumer use of drones, and recent General Motors vehicle recalls.

Click the image below to watch a rebroadcast of the July 1, 2014, event on C-Span

Screen capture from the video of Secretary Foxx at the Christian Science Monitor breaksfast

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Last week, I swung through three states in two days, hopping from Kentucky to Rhode Island and then down the I-95 corridor to Connecticut.

Drivers in these states, like drivers in so many others, know their roads and bridges are in need of investment. In Kentucky, almost a third of the roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition. And in Connecticut and Rhode Island, close to three-quarters of the bridges are structurally obsolete.  Twenty-mile backups on I-95 are all too common in those states.

I wish I could say I was visiting those states to off help, asking their governors, “What more can the federal government do? Where can we invest more in your bridges? How about your roads? Your transit systems?”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask those questions.

Due to inaction in Congress, I was forced to deliver an entirely different message: “Soon, you won’t be receiving more transportation funding –you’ll be receiving less.”

Photo of Secretary Foxx meeting with Connecticut elected officials

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Americans love to celebrate the Fourth of July with family, friends, food, and --yes-- fireworks. But all too often, our festivities turn tragic on our nation's roads. The fact is, this iconic American holiday is also one of the deadliest holidays of the year due to drunk-driving crashes.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, during the July 4th holiday period over the last five years (from 2008 to 2012), 765 people lost their lives in crashes involving drunk drivers. During the holiday period, these deaths consistently account for a full 40 percent of all traffic fatalities. And drunk drivers aren't just a threat to themselves; more than a third of the people killed when alcohol-impaired drivers crash are not the impaired drivers.

But drunk driving isn't something we have to live with; it's entirely preventable. So let's celebrate our independence this year by breaking free of this tragic consistency and driving sober...

Infographic showing that 44 percent of all traffic deaths during the 4th of July period in 2012 involved a drunk driver

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I was not yet born when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but like so many of my generation, I am a product of that important legislation. And this afternoon in New Orleans, I had the great privilege of celebrating the 50th anniversary of that historic moment with Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson, whose ancestors played a key role in the progress of American civil rights.

Homer Plessy was arrested in New Orleans in 1892 for riding in the White-only car of an East Louisiana Railroad train. Many of us are familiar with Rosa Parks and segregated bus seating, and we're familiar with the abhorrent "separate but equal" principle established by the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson, but not as many people know that Plessy also involved segregated transportation.

That unfortunate decision stood for decades until Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and, eventually, the Civil Rights Act we celebrate today.

Photo of Secretary Foxx with Mayor Landrieu and Keith Plessy

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In his first official blog post one year ago today, newly sworn-in Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote that, "Whether it is a bus, road, train, plane, or ship, our transportation system --at its best-- connects people to a better quality of life."

A year later, that initial statement remains the clearest description of what Secretary Foxx and this Department have worked so hard to do over the past 12 months--connect Americans to a better quality of life.

And we're happy to report that, with the Secretary's leadership, we've made significant headway toward that goal...

Photo of Anthony Foxx being sworn in as Secretary of Transportation

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Since I came into office a year ago tomorrow, I have been sounding the alarm bell on the need for greater transportation investment and a stable Highway Trust Fund.  

To quickly recap:

  • In January, we began posting our Highway Trust Fund tickers online and updating them monthly to allow the public to watch our transportation dollars dwindle towards zero.
  • In April, we raised awareness about this problem by taking a bus tour through eight states.
  • In May, we sent to Congress the GROW AMERICA Act, our four-year, $302 billion transportation funding proposal. 

Today we have an update –and the news isn’t good.

This morning, I sent letters to each state DOT CEO, and to our nation’s transit agencies, outlining the steps we will take when the Highway Trust Fund starts approaching zero. 

Graph depicting the Highway Account end-of-month balances actual and projected for 2014

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At DOT, safety has always been our first priority, but it wasn’t until two years ago that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was finally granted the authority to oversee the safety of all of America’s individual public transportation systems. While NHTSA oversees all of the nation’s cars, and FHWA ensures the safety of your roads and bridges, there was no federal role when it came to the nation’s subways, inter-city buses and other forms of public transit until 2012. 

We got to work right away.  One of the agency’s first steps in establishing our authority was to set up a new Office of Transit Safety and Oversight (TSO), which marked its first birthday last week.

The importance of safety in public transit was brought into stark relief on June 22, 2009, when a faulty signal resulted in a Metro rail accident in Washington, DC, that killed nine and injured dozens more. Although a rare occurrence, the tragic Fort Totten crash helped galvanize a bipartisan effort in Congress that responded to President Obama’s call for a Federal role in transit safety oversight.

In its first year, TSO has been working hard to put in place the policies and skilled team needed to help make a safe mode of travel even safer...

Photo of MBTA Green Line

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As I write, the M/V CAPE RAY, a 648-foot roll-on/roll-off Ready Reserve Force ship is steaming under orders towards Gioia Tauro, Italy, to load hundreds of tons of Syrian Government chemical weapon agents and precursor chemicals, before neutralizing them at sea.

With innovative safe-destruction technology welded to its decks, the CAPE RAY is the United States’ key contribution to the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) / United Nations international effort to eliminate the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons, and it provides the latest reminder of the important role America’s merchant mariners play in supporting our national security as well as our economy.

Photo of Ready Reserve Force M/V Cape Ray

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From DOT: Yesterday, we marked the 58th anniversary of the Highway Trust Fund, an instrumental source of road funding for all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Authorizing legislation for the fund, the Federal-Aid Highway Act, was signed into law and went into immediate effect on June 29, 1956. And for 58 years, the fund has supported repairs, maintenance, and new construction of roads, bridges, and tunnels across America.

Today, we're concerned about the 59th year. Unless Congress acts soon, the Highway Trust Fund could begin bouncing checks as early as August. That means states won't be reimbursed as planned for road projects. And that means trouble for travelers, businesses, and consumers from coast to coast.

That's why, today, we're continuing our series of guest blog posts from frontline elected officials who have to manage the consequences of the looming shortfall. We think Dayton's Mayor Nan Whaley makes it very clear how everyday American life counts on good transportation; we hope you'll agree...

Photo of replacement of Dayton-area 1927 bridge with rendering of new bridge

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