I have long said that when it comes to our national security and our Nation’s prosperity - small shipyards play a critical role.
American shipbuilders not only ensure that our Nation can build and maintain the vessels our military needs to keep our Nation secure, smaller shipyards throughout our Nation maintain our domestic fleet that keeps essential commodities flowing and goods on the store shelves including in Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. But what’s more, our Nation’s shipyards continue to meet or exceed international standards for efficiency and productivity in building vessels for use all over the globe while ensuring the creation and availability of good-paying jobs here at home that can support a family.
This is exactly why the Maritime Administration awarded $4.9 million in grants for capital improvements at nine small U.S. shipyards. This funding will support industrial modernizations so that our small shipyards can better compete in a rapidly changing global marketplace.
I recently completed a ride-along with owner operator Leo Wilkins. Our two-day and nearly 800-mile trip began in Sheffield, Ohio, and ended in Grain Valley, Missouri, outside of Kansas City. Along the way, we traveled through Toledo, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, and St. Louis.
I wanted a first-hand and unfiltered look – from the driver’s perspective – at how our work at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with the efforts of our industry and law enforcement partners impacts safety on our nation’s roads.
Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy. Our transportation system moves millions of people and countless tons of freight every day, which requires a lot of energy – energy that is released into our environment in the form of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. In all, transportation accounts for about 30 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-largest contributor.
At FTA, we’re proud that public transportation is already a greener way to get around than driving a private vehicle – but we can do more. That’s why we developed the Low or No Emission Vehicle Deployment program, known as Low-No.
The United States has the largest and most diverse general aviation (GA) community in the world - with a fleet of more than 220,000 aircraft, including amateur-built, rotorcraft, balloons, and turbojets. Improving safety for these aviators is one of the FAA’s top priorities. The fatal accident rate among GA pilots is declining, but too many lives are still being lost – 384 in the last year alone. We’re taking on this issue from a number of technological and educational initiatives, and we are directly engaging GA pilots.
Earlier this month, I traveled to the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Fla., to discuss ways new technology can be used to improve GA safety. One of the most important pieces of modern equipment with numerous safety benefits available for GA aircraft is ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. ADS-B is a key NextGen technology that uses satellites to help air traffic controllers track aircraft with far greater accuracy. It enables real-time weather and traffic awareness in the cockpit, improving situational awareness and safety.
Americans are stuck in traffic every day on the highways as seemingly a fact of life. But today, the Federal Highway Administration is unveiling a newly proposed rule to tackle the problem head on. FHWA will be requiring State transportation agencies to collect and use better data on actual travel times and to monitor the performance of the nation’s highways. This will help them to make better investment decisions and help ensure a more predictable commute.
FHWA will make system reliability a key performance measure. So, what does that mean?
The Beyond Traffic framework continues to make the case for innovative transportation solutions that address future trends that will affect the way our nation moves people and freight. You’ve heard the numbers. Within 30 years:
70 million people.
45 percent more freight.
This increase will include a drastic population shift from rural to urban areas and we’re already preparing our transportation system to adapt and expand. We have a sense for the challenges and opportunities this presents here at home, so we’re taking our ideas and solutions overseas for an international innovation exchange. Beginning today, I will be participating in roundtables, presentations and panels that highlight transportation’s role in improving quality of life, economic development, and the environment. Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway are leaders in such innovation, particularly when it comes to creating bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and developing Smart Cities through technological innovation, so we will visit all three countries.
With over 20 colleges and universities in the Washington, DC metro area, the energy, excitement and commitment to the future that resonates throughout the city are palpable. So you can imagine the atmosphere in College Park, MD when I stopped by the University of Maryland for their Transportation, Innovation and Policy Summit. Based on the theme alone, this was exactly where I wanted to be.
As I walked through the technology showcase, I saw work from our nation’s future transportation leaders and researchers that exhibited just the type of pioneering and innovative thinking our nation needs.
If you happen to be flying through Peoria International Airport, you’ll soon see a familiar name on the walls: former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Long-time readers of the Fast Lane are already familiar with some of Mr. LaHood’s greatest accomplishments as Secretary. He launched a nationwide campaign to end distracted driving, led DOT's Recovery Act investments, and fought for new airline passenger protections, just to name a few.
Leading the development and expansion of America’s Marine Highway system and facilitating its integration into the U.S. surface transportation system is one of the core missions at MARAD. That’s why Secretary Foxx designated three new Marine Highway Projects along the M-55 and M-90 Marine Highway corridors, providing an attractive alternative for companies shipping products along the Mississippi River, between the ports of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in the Great Lakes region. This potentially significant expansion of waterborne freight transportation services could reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in those regions, while giving shippers efficient, economical new options for moving freight.
As our population grows by 70 million people over the next three decades, and domestic freight volumes increase by 45 percent in that same timeframe, the pressure on our roads and highways will exact a devastating toll in infrastructure wear and tear, increased pollution and lost time sitting in traffic. The Marine Highway Program - designed to maximize the potential of our nation’s 29,000 miles of navigable waterways and near coast routes – created 22 all-water Marine Highway Routes to take the pressure off of our roads, highways and bridges.
For good reason, people from across the country have reached out to us here at the Federal Railroad Administration to ask or register concerns about the state of rail bridges in their communities. Many of the rail bridges in the United States were built decades ago, and despite being structurally sound, can appear unsafe. Many of these bridges are in the middle of America’s communities – in downtowns, near commerce, schools and offices. Hazardous materials, along with many other goods, move across these bridges each day.
Rail bridges are owned and maintained by individual railroads. It is each railroad’s responsibility to ensure that bridges are safe, structurally sound and maintained. In 2008, Congress required railroads to establish bridge safety management programs and inspect their bridges annually. And it is our responsibility to review each of these programs, and to conduct random audits of annual inspections.