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Cross-posted courtesy of Kansas DOT Put the Brakes on Fatalities series.

As I did last year on these pages, I must begin my "Put the Brakes on Fatalities" message by thanking the folks at the Kansas DOT, who put this valuable series together every year. The combination of professional guidance and personal narratives you'll read here for the next 20 days is powerful persuasion that all of us can --and should-- work together every day to make our roads safer for all who use them.

Last year, I wrote about the importance of individual decisions--the decision not to drink and drive, the decision to put your phone away when you're behind the wheel, the decision to keep your eye out for bicyclists and pedestrians.  And in a world where we know that more than 90 percent of all crashes are due in part to human error, there's no question that our individual choices and actions have the greatest direct impact on road safety.

But, precisely because driver error plays such a critical role in safety, we see a host of opportunities to improve highway design and automotive technology to help drivers perform better...

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When we published our latest Highway Trust Fund ticker last month, it created some confusion.  Some observers misconstrued the numbers to indicate that the Highway Account of the Trust Fund will be “out of the woods” for many months to come.  That is hardly the case.  Indeed, the trust fund could be facing rocky seas and therefore need additional funding from Congress before the end of the year, potentially as soon as this coming November. 

With the recent funding infusion that Congress authorized in July, we anticipate the cash balance of the highway account staying above zero until June 2016, but that is far from the whole story.

Given the volatility of revenues and expenditures and the uncertainty of very micro-level projections, DOT must consider employing methods to conserve cash once the balance of the highway account falls below a prudent threshold. The latest transfer from the General Fund keeps the account's cash balance above the prudent level of $4 billion, but only until November 2015.

At that time, DOT may be required to implement cash management procedures, and that will slow reimbursements to States for infrastructure work...

Chart depicting weekly highway account projected balances through F.Y. 2016

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Last week I joined the U.S. Surgeon General to release “Step It Up: A Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.” The event brought together leaders from social justice groups, healthcare, athletes, and business, all talking about the tremendous benefits of walking.

At DOT, we recognize that walking or wheelchair rolling is the beginning and end of every trip.  Whether you’re walking to your car or bus, into the airport or train station, you need to be able to do it safely.  This is more important than ever because for a growing number of people, walking or rolling is actually their primary way to get around.  In communities across the nation, safe access to jobs, schools, and essential services is critical for building ladders of opportunity.

So we’ve been hard at work improving safety for pedestrians through new initiatives, tools, and partnerships. And we'll continue to do so as we wholeheartedly embrace the Surgeon General’s call to action...

Step It Up web banner

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Technology is allowing us to reimagine our future transportation system. Advances in communications, connected vehicles, navigation, robotics, and smart cities—coupled with a surge in transportation-related data—are poised to dramatically change how we travel and deliver goods and services.

What will transportation look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now? Be part of Volpe’s newest speaker series—Beyond Traffic 2045: Reimagining Transportation—to delve into the trends that will transform transportation.

This series kicks off on Friday, September 18, and will continue the conversation started by Beyond Traffic, DOT's framework for a frank discussion about the shape, size, and condition of our transportation system...

Speaker series logo

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Last year alone, 6 million child car seats were recalled due to a safety defect. Yet far too many parents forget to register their car seats to ensure that they’re notified in case their seat is recalled. That’s why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is once again teaming up with Safe Kids Worldwide as part of Child Passenger Safety Week —September 12 to 19— to spread the word about the importance of car seat registration.

NHTSA has worked hard to impress upon parents and other caregivers that car seat registration is important and easy. Every car seat purchased comes with a postage-paid registration card you can simply drop in the mail, but NHTSA also provides a convenient way to register your seat online.

If you haven’t registered your car or booster seat with the manufacturer, you’re needlessly putting your child’s safety at risk...

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At the Federal Transit Administration, we believe public transportation doesn’t just move people; it moves communities.

And we believe that when communities invest in new transit options, they can connect their citizens to jobs, education and opportunity. However, creating that connection to opportunity doesn't happen by accident. It takes planning.

That’s why I was in Tacoma, Washington, yesterday to announce the 21 projects across the country that will be taking part in FTA’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development Planning...

Sketch of transit-oriented development

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Over the past year I have been visiting research labs, technology companies, and manufacturers to deliver a simple message: The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape, for new technologies in transportation. If an emerging technology can improve safety and improve how we move, we want to see it on the market as quickly as possible.

And, as many Fast Lane readers know, we are especially bullish about the use of connected and autonomous vehicle technology. Because, who among us has never started to switch lanes thinking that the lane next to them was clear when it wasn’t? And who has never once had a hard time seeing an upcoming stop sign at night?

None of us are perfect, and when we're behind the wheel, mistakes can --and do-- happen.

So imagine having a car that is equipped with technology that can correct human error. Imagine riding a bicycle to a transit stop during rush-hour or walking across a busy street. Except now, you can basically communicate with the drivers and infrastructure surrounding you, and you're armed with information, so you're much less vulnerable.

This is what connected vehicle technology can do. It promises to eliminate 80 percent of accidents in which drivers were not impaired...

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Readers of Fast Lane know that Beyond Traffic predicts some seismic changes in our nation’s population and living patterns –and accordingly, in the way people move around.

The country is expected to grow by about 70 million people by 2045, with most of that growth likely concentrated in emerging “mega-regions.” Urban areas across America will have to find ways to adapt to that growth or face increased congestion and reduced mobility.

Fortunately, many forward-thinking communities nationwide are already taking steps to get ahead of gridlock. I am proud to have visited three of them this past week on a trip to our Pacific Northwest –or, as it’s known in Beyond Traffic, “Cascadia.”

Vine B.R.T.

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On this anniversary of September 11, 2001, we honor those in the transportation community whose actions saved lives, provided a measure of solace and security, and helped inspire what has become a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Fourteen years ago, with a national airspace emergency of unknown scale unfolding, the men and women of America's air traffic control system took extraordinary measures to safely shutdown our skies. And as thousands sought refuge from the chaos of Lower Manhattan --where roads, bridges, and tunnels were closed-- U.S. Merchant Mariners rushed to New York Harbor to evacuate them by water.

We hope the two video reflections here --in addition to the enduring stories of heroic first responders and the brave passengers of Flight 93-- will serve as a reminder that when we do our part to help strangers as well as neighbors, our nation will not falter.

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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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