When we talk about "breaking ground," at the Federal Highway Administration, we're not just talking about moving some dirt. We're almost always also talking about moving people and freight where they need to go faster and more safely than before. And that was the story last week at the groundbreaking for the Boulder City Bypass in Nevada.
The Bypass is an outstanding project that will help achieve three key DOT goals –enhanced safety, less congestion and more efficient movement of freight. We're also proud to support the Bypass because it will help bring Nevadans and Arizonans one step closer to the key regional goal of an eventual Interstate link between Las Vegas and Phoenix...
Or, you can simply read this recap.
President Obama traveled to India in January, and Prime Minister Modi visited the United States last fall. During these trips, our countries came closer together to tackle some of the big challenges all nations will face as the young 21st century gets old older. This includes building “smart cities” that are ready for population growth and a more volatile climate, and that provide high-quality public transportation systems that connect citizens to opportunities.
This week, I was proud to continue that dialogue, particularly when it comes to transportation.
In New Delhi, I met with key transportation officials heading ministries for nearly every mode of transportation, including the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Railways, Ministry of Civil Aviation, and the Ministry of Heavy Industries. I also toured IBM’s Smart Cities lab. And in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, I met with private sector leaders and saw India’s transportation innovation firsthand.
Broadway in New York City is one of the most famous streets in America, but not so long ago, it was famous to New Yorkers mostly for congestion. The street cuts diagonally across the island of Manhattan, slicing through Midtown and connecting iconic locations like Times Square and Herald Square. But the complex intersections created by its angled path made it hard to get people and vehicles through Midtown, and at places like Times Square, Broadway was a mass of honking cars and crowded sidewalks that didn’t serve any users, in cars or on foot, well.
Earlier this week, New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her staff showed me how New York has dramatically transformed Broadway. The “Greenlight for Midtown” project, launched in 2009, started with what might have seemed a counter-intuitive notion: To improve traffic on Broadway, let’s close the street to cars. Two stretches of Broadway, from 42nd to 47th streets and 33rd to 35th, were turned into pedestrian plazas. Traffic signal timing was adjusted, new bicycle lanes and a parking facility went in. In 2010, the city decided to make the changes permanent. Today, construction crews are finishing necessary work at street level and below. The city funded the project with assistance from the federal Department of Transportation.
NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo discussing pedestrian safety in Times Square.
Of course, at NHTSA, our focus is safety, and for safety, the gains have been remarkable. In the three years after the change, total crashes in the affected area fell by 15 percent. Pedestrian injuries fell by 24 percent. Injuries for all users – motorists, pedestrians and cyclists – are down by 33 percent in Times Square and 26 percent in Herald Square.
Today, with the swoop of two pens, India and America took a bold step towards a future where all forms of transportation – roads, rails, ports, airports – work together seamlessly.
This morning, I signed a Memorandum of Cooperation – or MOC – with India’s Minister of Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, Nitin Gadkari. The Minister signed on behalf of three other ministries, and the memorandum outlines ways all of those agencies cooperate to strengthen India’s transportation system.
Both India and America face shared challenges when it comes to the future of transportation: more people to move; more freight to carry; a climate where bigger, deadlier storms occur more often. And while we do not yet know exactly HOW we can overcome all these challenges, we understand that any solution must be guided by the same general principle: multi-modalism.
It’s in everyone’s best interest for us to have a great transportation system. It’s how we get around, and how our goods get from place to place.
Yet our transportation infrastructure is in very poor shape. More than half of our roads are rated in less than good condition, a quarter of our bridges languish in the same category, and public transportation is falling behind. The last time the Federal Transit Administration tallied up the backlog in transit repairs and maintenance, it came to over $86 billion. And it’s growing.
Many people long for more and better public transit options to get to work, school or the doctor, while those fortunate enough to have transit access can all relate stories about service disruptions. That’s to say nothing about future transit users. In the next 30 years, the U.S. will be home to 70 million more people. To keep America moving, we will need a strong, reliable public transit system.
I was invited, along with federal, state and local officials, to attend today’s Stand Up for Transportation rally in Philadelphia to talk about some of these challenges and potential solutions. SU4T rallies were held in dozens of cities across America in a daylong show of support for transportation. We spoke before hundreds of transportation supporters and interested citizens who stood up outside historic City Hall at Dilworth Park, a public square and transit center renovated partially with DOT funds, to demonstrate their commitment to our efforts to climb out of our infrastructure hole.
To be safe drivers, we are taught to buckle up, adjust our mirrors, and scan the area before we pull out. But there is another behavior that people think is “safe,” which actually puts drivers, their passengers, and everyone on the road at risk.
According to a 2014 poll, 8 out of every 10 drivers --like the mom in this new video from the National Safety Council-- honestly believe they are making a safe choice by using a hands-free application for their phone while driving. Unfortunately, they are wrong.
More than 30 studies show hands-free devices do not make drivers any safer because --even hands-free-- your brain remains distracted by the cell phone conversation...
For nearly ten years, our Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has been reminding you to “Call 8-1-1 before you dig,” and we are not stopping now.
With spring upon most of us, the shovels and post-hole diggers are coming out of garages and sheds across America. But, before you or your contractors break ground to install that fence or dig a new pool, make sure to call the 8-1-1 national hotline to get those buried utility lines safely marked for free.
And, as DOT promotes April each year as National Safe Digging Month, we’re also proud to announce that this April, we’re awarding more than $1 million in grants to protect communities from digging accidents...
As predicted the month of March came in like a lion. But for DOT's TIFIA program, it did not go out like a lamb. Late in the month, on March 25, Secretary Foxx announced a TIFIA loan for approximately $194 million to help pay for the construction of the Wekiva Parkway in Orlando. And a week later, he announced a loan for up to $209.3 million to finance the Portsmouth Bypass in Scioto County, Ohio.
DOT's support for these two projects shows a program that stands ready to fill market gaps with supplemental credit so state and local governments, transit agencies, railroad companies, special authorities, special districts, and private entities can get back to the business of building America.
The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) extends loans and credit that projects can then leverage to attract more financing. It's a multiplier so powerful that each dollar of federal funds can provide up to $10 in TIFIA credit assistance and support up to $30 in transportation infrastructure investment.
And in a world of diminished transportation funding, the most recent projects in Orlando and Ohio show that TIFIA can help move projects forward...
I’m pretty excited about the productive week we've had here at DOT, and I'd like to share that sense of achievement and --more importantly-- promise with Fast Lane readers.
On Monday, we jumped out of the gate by sending a revamped GROW AMERICA Act to Congress. GROW is our legislative proposal for surface transportation that provides six years of funding certainty, increased investment in infrastructure, and smart policies that ensure taxpayers get more bang for their buck and that communities can enjoy the benefits of projects sooner. Experts all agree that America's transportation system needs more than a few potholes filled and bridges repaired. But we also need to start getting ahead of the curve like the world leader we have been since George Washington began supervising construction of a canal along the Potomac River. And GROW will help us do that.
In fact, all of this week's highlights point back to the GROW AMERICA Act...