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We’ve been talking a lot here lately —and with good reason— about the pressing need to rebuild and renew America's transportation system.  Recent Fast Lane posts have emphasized the need for Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill that boosts investment in roads, bridges, and transit.  And just yesterday, with the Highway Trust Fund running low and current transportation law set to expire, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to State DOT officials advising them of the impending deadline and its painful implications.

Often overlooked in this discussion, however, are America's counties.

If we want to improve the safety and resilience of our nation's roads, we can’t draw the line at Interstate highways, U.S. highways, or State highways; we must include America's County roads...

Map of U.S. showing county boundaries, with road work faded into the background

Continue Reading Improving safety on county- ››
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Today, I joined Secretary Foxx at the official opening of Charlotte’s new CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar. When we cut the ceremonial ribbon, we helped kick off the 1.5-mile first phase of what will be a 10-mile line that connects people to much of what this growing city has to offer.

Residents of Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, already benefit from light rail, but the streetcar will go deep into the central business district and provide a new way for people to access health care centers, universities, city services and scores of retail establishments.

Its value as a connector increases countless times by intersecting with the LYNX Blue Line light rail and 70 – that’s right, 70! – bus routes. The project offers another public transportation choice in an area of high transit use and lessens the need for cars in the center of the city...

Rendering of Gold Line scene

Continue Reading Striking Gold in Charlotte ››
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Last Thursday, I wrote here in the Fast Lane, that --because the current transportation law is due to expire on July 31-- we would have to suspend all reimbursements to States for road, bridge, and transit work on August 1, unless Congress acts in the 17 days before the law expires.

I also noted that, because the trust fund's highway account is rapidly running out of money, an extension of transportation authority won't buy us much time at all because we will have to implement cash management protocols next month. Again, unless Congress adds new revenue.

This morning, we sent letters to the 50 State DOTs, 5 Territorial DOTs, and the Washington, DC, DOT advising them of those impending measures...

Image of letter to Alabama DOT

Continue Reading Letter advises State DOTs ››
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This year marks the 80th anniversary of Social Security and the 50th anniversary of Medicare.  But rather than looking backward, the 2015 White House Conference on Aging being held today has been examining the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans in future decades.

Because the White House conference was such a packed house, DOT is joining the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in hosting a watch party for the many Federal agencies whose missions include helping older Americans.

FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan speaks at DOT watch party
Acting FTA Administrator Therese McMillan speaks on transportation and an aging population.

Every day, nearly 10,000 Americans turn 65.  By 2045, the number of Americans over age 65 will have increased by 77 percent.  That is no small drop in the demographic bucket; it is a seismic shift and one that has our full attention...

Continue Reading Thoughts on transportation ››
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The Connect Historic Boston project got its official start last Friday with a groundbreaking that included DOT's Undersecretary for Policy Peter Rogoff and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The public ceremony had a much longer guest list, however, because Connect Historic Boston would not be possible without the collaboration of the Federal Highway Administration, the Massachusetts DOT, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the City of Boston's Public Works Department, the National Park Service, and many others groups.  That long list of partners --and the improvements the project will make to America's oldest functioning street network-- helps make it exactly the kind of innovative undertaking that DOT's TIGER grant program was designed to support.

Which is why our $15.5 million TIGER award is making possible this $23 million effort to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to downtown Boston and its treasure of American history...

Connect Historic Boston graphic showing the various modal connections C.H.B. will allow

Continue Reading Connect Historic Boston ››
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If America's small businesses are the engines of job creation, then the Federal government has been providing those engines a good supply of fuel.  This year, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has given another “A” rating to the federal government for awarding almost 25 percent of its contracts to small businesses.

Here at DOT, we've made supporting small and disadvantaged businesses a top priority.  So it's no surprise that --in conjunction with Secretary Foxx’s Ladders of Opportunity initiative-- DOT alone awarded almost double the federal average in Fiscal Year 2014.  For the year, almost 45 percent of our procurement contracts went to small businesses. 

DOT's OSDBU team in a group photo
DOT's OSDBU team

DOT's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) was instrumental in this achievement by providing a range of support to help small businesses compete for these contracts...

Continue Reading Federal Government, DOT ››
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In June, we published graphs showing past balances and projected balances for the two Highway Trust Fund accounts, the Highways Account and the Mass Transit Account.  Those graphs showed the Highways Account balance quickly approaching zero with the Mass Transit Account balance not far behind.

A month later, we've updated the data for both accounts to reflect June's activity.  I'm sorry to report that the situation has not really changed, and both accounts are dwindling fast.  In fact, we're nearing the threshold for the Highways Account where we have to institute cash management procedures...

Chart showing highway account balance hitting 0 by end of F.Y. 2015

Continue Reading DOT updates Highway Trust ››
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Today we released a set of Fact Sheets showing the condition of transportation in all 50 states. It's not a pretty picture.

Data on Massachusetts showing 52% of bridges in need of attention
Grim data from just one of the 50 fact sheets DOT released today.

A nation's infrastructure is its economic backbone. And you don't need a history book to know that a big part of America's success has long been our willingness to invest in our transportation system. In return, our ability to get supplies to manufacturers, goods to market, and people where they need to go has helped us thrive.

But we've been investing in that ability less and less.  And, as our willingness to invest has declined and transportation spending has decreased, it's no coincidence that —more and more—  Americans in every state are experiencing the frustration of poor road conditions and congestion.

Continue Reading We can't cross that ››
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Like most of our Nation’s major urban areas, New York City is experiencing growing pains. The Big Apple’s rising population means surging needs for freight and services, which have made congestion a common reality for the city’s more than 10 million daily commuters.

However, New York has long had a transportation ace in the hole —its geography and access to water.  New York City is positioned on a series of islands right in the middle of New York Harbor, one of the world’s largest natural harbors.  We at the Maritime Administration (MARAD) have always viewed the harbor as a common sense solution to the city’s transportation challenges, whether it’s using ferries to transport people or ships and barges to move freight, and that’s why we've been making moves to help New York fully leverage this asset. 

Floating containers on barges across the harbor has long been a reliable way to move cargo between New York and New Jersey —without adding to the dense traffic on the region's bridges. That’s why back in April, with MARAD's support, Secretary Foxx formally designated a cross-harbor barge service between Port Newark and Brooklyn as an Official American Marine Highway Project...

Chip Jaenichen at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal

Continue Reading Maritime Solutions for the ››
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Congress has a scant 24 days until America's surface transportation law expires and our Highway Trust Fund crosses a dangerously low threshold.  Although the current law wasn't really more than the 34th successive extension of previous law at pretty bare funding levels, even that is approaching a dead end.

If you're a Fast Lane reader, you know where I stand: this Congress should pass a long-term bill so States, regions, counties, and cities can plan more than 2 months ahead. And that bill should significantly increase investment in our Nation's roads, bridges, and transit systems so this country can continue to thrive.

We included those ideas and others --like faster project delivery so people can enjoy the benefits of transportation investments more quickly-- in the GROW AMERICA Act that we sent to Congress last March.  But I keep looking at the calendar and wondering what we have to do to get a proposal like GROW through Congress and to President Obama's desk for his signature.

The good news is, I am hardly alone.  Leaders across the country are adding their voices to this important campaign...

24 days until surface transportation law expires

Continue Reading Plenty of company in ››
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