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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...

Continue Reading Connected Vehicle pilot ››
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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.

Continue Reading On 9/11, remembering the ››
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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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In Texas, they’re used to doing things in a big way and the new LBJ Express in Dallas is no exception. Today's opening of this project was big in a number of ways.

Big as in a $2.6 billion project, including $1.2 billion in federal aid, including a big ($850 million) loan from our Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program.

The LBJ Express also rebuilds one of the busiest stretches of roadway in north Texas and in the process, improves mobility by nearly doubling the road's existing capacity and adding managed toll lanes.  That’s important when you live in America’s second-fastest growing city...

Photo of LBJ Express ribbon-cutting

Continue Reading In Dallas, managing growth ››
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Seattle’s industrial district in the south of the city is one of our nation’s busiest intermodal transportation hubs.  The interplay among ships, trains, and trucks exchanging cargo destined for U.S. points of delivery or export markets overseas churns incessantly day and night.  To someone new to the Pacific Northwest, the area South of Downtown –known locally as “SoDo”– would seem an unlikely first choice as an ideal spot for a relaxing bicycle ride or leisurely stroll. 

But an increasing number of bicyclists and pedestrians are looking for connections between SoDo and downtown, and finding ways to protect their safety as they navigate a sea of freight activity is important.

One year ago this week, Secretary Foxx announced the “Safer People, Safer Streets - Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative,” and one of the first steps in that initiative called for DOT field offices to lead non-motorized traffic, road-safety assessments in cities across the country.  I am proud that the Washington State Division of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration answered that call, leading a DOT team with folks from NHTSA, FHWA, and FTA in an assessment of the safety challenges facing bicyclists and pedestrians along the SoDo commuter route.

Biking amid trucks in Seattle

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Earlier this week, the Federal Railroad Administration made available to States $10 million in grants to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track on routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol.

Highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities.  And, while the number of fatalities has decreased for the last several decades, the number actually increased last year for the first time this decade. This is a particularly dangerous trend in an era when the volume of energy shipments by rail has increased dramatically.

That's why FRA strongly encourages States with innovative ideas and solutions to apply for these important safety grants.

This week's grant solicitation is just the latest of more than two dozen DOT actions taken in the past two years to increase the safety of transporting energy products by rail...

Continue Reading FRA opens $10 million in ››
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Along our northern border from New York to Minnesota, you'll find the ports, locks, and waterways that make up the Great Lakes -Saint Lawrence Seaway System. The bi-national Seaway is a vital artery for trade into and out of the United States and Canada, supporting $34.6 billion of economic activity and 227,000 jobs in the U.S. and Canada.

The Seaway is also an important part of the heritage of many Great Lakes tribes and communities; in fact, its history as a source of sustenance and as a key trade avenue dates back to an era before either Canada or the United States were founded.

The Seaway's cultural and economic significance require us to make significant efforts to protect the Seaway and ensure its continued viability as a safe and effective commercial and recreational waterway. That's why the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) works closely with local, tribal, state, and federal agencies to prepare for a quick and safe response in case of a vessel incident.

Every year, we participate in exercises to mitigate the impact of an incident on both the local environment and Seaway navigation...

Boom deployment

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It's no secret that freight rail and rail transit services are growing. With transit ridership breaking records year after year and expanded domestic fuel production putting more energy freight on the network, the rail industry in North America just continues to grow. This growing demand for rail services is exactly why the new Research and Innovation Laboratory (RAIL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Rail Tech and Engineering Center (RailTEC) is so important.

Last month, I had the pleasure of touring the new lab and helping celebrate its official opening.  There's no question that this world-class facility --funded by DOT's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, the Federal Railroad Administration, railroads, and rail industry suppliers-- underscores RailTEC’s status as a national leader for rail transportation research and innovation.

Group photo from RAIL  ribbon cutting

DOT's University Transportation Centers (UTC) program supports critical transportation research at competitively selected colleges and universities like Illinois around the country. As the lead UTC for rail research, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign works with rail industry leaders and state organizations to ensure that the research and curriculum continue to be relevant and timely...

Continue Reading University of Illinois ››
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Today is September 1, but don't let that fool you. The 114th Congress has another week left in its August recess. What does that mean for Fast Lane readers? There's still time to #ShowUsYourInfraWear!

That's right, our summer vacation campaign to demonstrate how your community would benefit from Federal transportation funding continues on Instagram and on Twitter [external link]--where much to our delight the campaign took on its own momentum.

If you've been following the hashtag for the past 31 days, then you've seen some good snaps of crumbling bridges, damaging pavement, disappearing bike lanes, missing sidewalks, treacherous bus stops, and a host of other symptoms of an America that needs to invest more aggressively in how we move people and freight...

Continue Reading It's September but ››
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