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A Roll Call Commentary published on June 12, 2015.
Cross-posted courtesy Roll Call
.

Pass by a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles and you’ll see the faces of those waiting to use public transportation are diverse. Women, seniors, college students, African-Americans and Latinos take various forms of public transportation to get to work, school or even just to get connected to society.

Latinos rely especially heavily on public transportation.

1.7 million Latinos use public transit to commute to work.

3 million Latinos carpool.

And a combined 1 million Latinos bike, use a motorcycle or walk to work according to census data.

Public transportation is a critical lifeline for the Latino community. Like most Americans, we depend on it for economic and social mobility. When I was in college and law school, I relied on public transportation to get to class. I didn’t have a car and lived too far from campus to walk. I depended on the BART at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA Law School, I took the 1 bus from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

As we move forward, it’s important to remember the Latino community has a big stake in the transportation conversation...

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The Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of the National Bridge Inspection Program (NBIP) has helped ensure the safety of America’s bridges for more than three decades.  A large part of this oversight depends on data collecting and reporting, which FHWA takes very seriously.

That’s why the agency recently announced it will begin collecting new data from state DOTs to monitor the nation's bridge conditions even more closely. As of April, state DOTs started providing the improved data to the NBIP.

The safety of our roads and bridges is a top DOT priority. But, in a situation like today where we have a tremendous repair backlog due to chronic underfunding and one in every four U.S. bridges needs some type of improvement, it's important to know where those limited funds are needed most.  Improving bridge data helps better identify where to dedicate resources to ensure that America's key bridges remain in good-enough condition to support the traveling public, businesses, and the economy...

Bridge Out sign

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One of the most important jobs we have at DOT is to make sure rural Americans are connected --to each other; to schools, jobs, and medical care; to the 21st century global economy.  

Freight transportation, for example, is a huge concern for rural communities.  Farmers can't get their crops to market without it.  And with margins as tight as they are, the cost of that transportation can determine whether their crops are profitable.

And it’s not just freight transportation that makes a difference in the lives of rural Americans. When you're separated from your neighbors or the nearest town by miles, personal transportation matters.  Rural communities are often transit deserts, where those who can't drive are isolated from the basics --like groceries and doctors-- and from opportunities --like jobs and schools.

That’s why DOT sent GROW AMERICA, a long-term transportation bill that includes funding solutions for rural concerns, to Congress...

Rural road, South Carolina

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With another school year coming to a close, I want to talk about America's students. As Secretary, I regularly meet bright, eager young people --from grade school to college-- who are passionate, resourceful, and ready to contribute to our society.  However, opportunities to gain the skills needed for jobs that pay good wages are too often elusive.

Consider these numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: in July 2014, only 51.9 percent of the young men and women (ages 16-24) were employed. That's a steep drop from the 58.3 percent who were employed ten years ago.  For youth from communities of color, the numbers are worse: Only 39.8 percent of African American youth and 47 percent of Hispanic youth had jobs in July 2014.

I believe we have a responsibility to do something about this.  And I believe transportation can play an important role in improving the employment landscape for young people nationwide.  So last month, I met with 20 transportation executives from across the country to discuss how we can introduce students between the ages of 16 and 20 to careers in transportation.

Ladders logo

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Today the Federal Aviation Administration released our Draft Environmental Assessment for the Southern California Metroplex project.  This project will replace dozens of existing conventional air traffic procedures with new, more precise satellite-based procedures.

These procedures are a key component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.  Nationally, the NextGen evolution from ground-based air traffic control to a satellite-based system improves safety, efficiency, fuel savings, and emissions.

From reduced fuel burn and emissions in Seattle and Denver, increased throughput in Louisville and Atlanta, and digital controller-to-pilot communications in Newark and Memphis, we’re already delivering those benefits to cities across the U.S.

Now we’re ready to bring some of these benefits to those flying into and out of the busy airspace of Southern California...

SoCal Metroplex Map

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This morning in the Fast Lane, Secretary Foxx reiterated the warning of our Beyond Traffic draft 30-year transportation forecast: “A tidal wave is coming for us in transportation, a wave of people and freight….Our infrastructure system, which struggles to meet its current challenges, won't be able to ride the coming wave.  Especially when you consider today's transportation funding situation.”

Fortunately, many communities across the U.S. —like those in our Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets— have embraced an approach that reduces roadway congestion and stretches our transportation dollars: bicycle infrastructure.  Even better, improving bicycle infrastructure boosts economic growth...

NYC Columbus Ave

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We talk a lot about Metropolitan Planning Organizations here in the Fast Lane.  Congress created MPOs to make sure that transportation projects and programs that use Federal dollars are based on a broad planning process that considers a wide range of interests.

I sat on my local Metropolitan Planning Organization back in Charlotte. I know how grueling the day-to-day work can be; you're dealing with a thousand stakeholders, planning and shepherding projects --sometimes at a maddeningly slow pace-- from lines on a blueprint to steel and concrete in the ground.  But it's also rewarding work because MPOs connect people to the opportunities their region offers.

You see, the work of transportation is not just connecting people to each other; it's also the work of expanding opportunity, of giving people access to a better life.

Unfortunately, as I told the National Association of Regional Councils yesterday, the work MPOs have been doing since Congress mandated them in 1962 is getting more and more difficult...

NARC 2015

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Apparently, President Calvin Coolidge was not an early fan of aviation.  However, once he came to see the value of aviation to the Nation, he was instrumental in getting through Congress the first legislation to establish a Federal aviation policy.  He signed the Air Commerce Act of 1926, determining the course of aviation regulation to this day, and the U.S. has been bullish on aviation ever since.

Today, the White House, DOT, and the Federal Aviation Administration all recognize how important aviation has been and how important it will be in the years ahead.  So it was a pleasure to meet with members of the International Air Transport Association this morning in Miami and help celebrate IATA's 70th anniversary...

Curtiss biplane

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It's not uncommon, while facing the challenges of winter, to look forward to the warmer weather promised by spring.  But, as readers know from news reports, this spring has provided severe challenges of its own.  In several states, heavy rains and flooding have taken lives, destroyed homes and property, and damaged roads.

In the two weeks between May 21 and June 3 alone, the Federal Highway Administration made available $11 million in Emergency Relief funds for flood-damaged roads in four states.

When disaster strikes, it's crucial to get roads reopened so emergency crews can get access into stricken communities and people from those communities can get access to shelter, medical care, and necessary supplies.  This spring, road crews in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, and Alaska have worked hard to keep communities connected, and we appreciate their efforts...

Oklahoma road repairs

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Each year, hundreds of heavy-duty vehicle drivers are killed and thousands injured in rollover crashes.  Fortunately, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) technology is available to prevent a large percentage of these crashes.  And our nation's commercial truck and bus drivers as well as bus passengers deserve the protection ESC offers.

That's why, since 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board --an independent Federal safety agency-- has recommended that ESC be required on all new trucks and buses. It's also why, in 2012, Congress directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to consider an ESC requirement.

And earlier this week, NHTSA finalized its rule requiring ESC systems on new heavy trucks and large buses.  NHTSA estimates the rule will prevent as many as 1,759 crashes, 649 injuries, and 49 fatalities each year...

Truck in rollover testing

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