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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

Continue Reading NARC, MPOs ready to create ››
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Mobile, Alabama, has one of the largest, most productive ports in the country –a port that is pumping billions of dollars into Alabama’s economy every year.  The Port of Mobile has a container terminal linked up with five railroads, two highways, and 15,000 miles of waterways.  An Airbus facility being built nearby --specifically for port access-- will open this year, and hire about 1,000 people.

Mobile is not alone in enjoying the benefits of a major port. According to a recent study, America’s seaports generated $4.6 trillion in total economic activity and supported 23 million jobs in 2014. That's up 43 percent since 2007 and accounts for 26 percent of the nation’s $17.4 trillion economy.

Which sounds like good news. But alarmingly, a survey entitled The State of Freight, released the same day by the Association of American Port Authorities identified a current need of $29 billion in port infrastructure investment just to be able to handle projected freight volumes in 2025. The survey also identified great need for investment in intermodal connectors, with 80 percent of ports needing at least $10 million in investment and 30 percent needing at least $100 million...

Port of Mobile

Continue Reading To unleash American ports, ››
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Why talk transportation with a roomful of real estate folks?  Because the men and women gathered for the 2015 LOCUS National Leadership Summit this week are committed to place-making, to the kind of smart growth that creates livable development.  And because the kind of places that LOCUS members are trying to make need transportation. They need safe ways to walk; they need transit access; and they need the jobs and investment transportation brings. 

LOUCS summit

I've said repeatedly that transportation should not create division; it should be the solution to past divisions.  We've had a historic approach that emphasizes throughput --speeding people from one community through, over, or around another community-- usually by building a highway that actually isolates local residents from the jobs and other activities in a downtown business district.

We need a policy that emphasizes connection --for everyone. The members of LOCUS understand this.  That's why they've become our partners in LadderSTEP...

Continue Reading Ladders partners ready to ››
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A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than a collision involving another motor vehicle. And, more than half of all car-rail collisions occur at railroad crossings equipped with active warning devices such as flashing lights and gates.

Let all that sink in before your next trip traveling where roads and rails cross.

Rail crossing safety in the U.S. is a challenge as old as the rail lines that began converging with roads in the 19th Century, but it's a challenge that can be improved by making travelers more aware. That’s why the U.S. Department of Transportation’s railroad, transit and highway agencies are teaming up with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), to save lives by helping to fund OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!” public awareness campaign. 

OLI unveiled its latest video public service announcement today --International Level Crossing Awareness Day-- when more than 40 countries worldwide conduct public awareness efforts to promote safety at railroad crossings...

Continue Reading When train hits car, it’s ››
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In April, I announced the launch of the seventh round of our TIGER discretionary grant program.  The 2015 TIGER program will make $500 million available for innovative and transformative transportation projects across the country.

Once again, the overwhelming demand for TIGER grants reflects the widespread need for additional resources to fund needed projects across the country. The Department received more than 950 pre-applications to fund transformative and innovative capital projects. Applicants are requesting nearly $14.5 billion in federal funds. 

That's 29 times the amount available...

TIGER funded transit project

Continue Reading Overwhelming demand ››
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Take a moment to envision a transportation super center –one facility connecting rail and road to a thriving port– that builds the local economy and adds to the national economy while supporting long-term, good-paying jobs.  Working hand in hand with state and Federal partners, the Port of Duluth–Superior is making that idea a concrete reality with the Duluth Intermodal Project.

Last week, I was on site at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority as they broke ground on this ambitious project that will help ensure the port’s future.  Supported by a $10 million TIGER grant, along with funds from the State of Minnesota and Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the Duluth Intermodal Project is real innovation in action. 

Thorough planning by port leadership coupled with partnered investment will rebuild two docks and connect them to rail and road corridors to better meet the 45 percent increase in domestic freight volume that we know must be moved by 2045...

Duluth-Superior

Continue Reading Superior Transportation ››
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Since 1932, the Arlington Memorial Bridge has been a stunner.  Its classical appearance, with a series of arches spanning the Potomac River and monumental statuary on both ends, conveys strength.  That's no accident; the bridge was designed to demonstrate national unity.  It also connects two of the most-treasured sites in the National Capital region, the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, significant reminders of America's rich heritage.

But when Federal Highway Administration engineers found that the steel beams supporting the bridge were corroding quicker than expected and could not be guaranteed to meet the bridge's load, we had no choice but to begin emergency repairs last Friday, shutting down two lanes for at least the next 6 months and forcing drivers to choose gridlock or find alternate routes in a region already choked by traffic.

Now, instead of a bridge symbolizing national unity, the Arlington Memorial Bridge symbolizes a different national trend: For 6 years now, Congress has been patching together our transportation and putting off the real repairs and improvements our nation's roads and bridges so badly need.  Thirty-three short-term actions, zero long-term solutions.  So we gathered at Memorial Bridge to say, simply, enough is enough...

Continue Reading Bridge that once symbolized ››
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Secretary Foxx has talked a lot about the cost of transportation funding shortages --and for good reason.  Last week, I visited the site of a project that exemplifies exactly what has been happening all around the country: the US 395 North Spokane Corridor or NSC.  The NSC remains half-built, and there is simply no funding to build the second half, the remaining five miles that would connect it to Interstate 90. 

From one standpoint, the project really symbolizes what’s right in transportation today.  The people of this region came up with a project that would improve safety and reduce congestion.

The bad news is that --after 33 short-term, underinvesting extensions by Congress-- we still don’t have the federal funding to complete the NSC.  Or to complete thousands of other projects like it across the country.  Or to even start the thousands of other projects communities have planned to meet their most pressing transportation needs.

The NSC and its half-built and unbuilt counterparts do not need the short-term patch of another Congressional extension. They need the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress in March.  They need the substantial investment this nation has put off for far too long.  They need a long-term timeline that lets communities plan and invest in projects that will create jobs, improve residents' quality of life, and help the local economy grow...

At N.S.C. site
Acting FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau with Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, courtesy FHWA.
Continue Reading Funding shortages lead to ››
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Today the House of Representatives voted on its 33rd short-term funding measure for transportation in the past 6 years, and Americans will pay the price.

On the surface, funding transportation drop-by-drop might not seem like such a big problem.  But it is, and the facts are unassailable.  This era of short-term patches and chronic federal underinvestment has crippled America’s ability to build the transportation system we need.

This is not anyone's idea of the preferred outcome.  And while we recognize that Congress needs more time to complete work on what we do want –a long-term bill that increases investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the White House has made it clear that this pattern of perpetual uncertainty must stop...

Overburdened road
The light might be green, but no one's going anywhere.
Continue Reading Let’s Make it Count in 2015 ››
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Fast Lane readers know that public transportation provides support for millions of hardworking Americans trying to get to jobs, a doctor's office, school, and other key places.  For some families, even a routine trip to buy groceries requires multiple transit buses.

And when bus service is less than reliable --a bus breaks down or is even just late enough that you miss the next connection-- it's not just an inconvenience; it's a hardship.  And it's an obstacle to the basic struggle not just of trying to get a little bit ahead, but of simply trying to stay afloat.

So for folks in L.A. who depend on the bus, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (LACMTA) Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility, a new, state-of-the-art facility that will significantly improve bus service in the heart of the city, is more than just a garage.

It's a lifeline, and it's exactly the kind of investment in public transportation infrastructure that we need to continue making...

Sec. Foxx with Mayor Garcetti
Photo courtesy @MetroLosAngeles.
Continue Reading Los Angeles bus facility, ››
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