At a time when the nation reflects on our past in order to decide who will lead us into the future, yesterday, our national town hall allowed for a relevant and poignant conversation on how and where transportation will fit in. Stakeholders, advocates and users alike from all across the nation were in the room, physically and virtually, to discuss the way in which our transportation system can functionally expand but also serve as the catalyst for economic opportunity in communities nationwide.
We know that deeply embedded in our transportation infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections. The brick and mortar that holds up throughways to get us from point A to point B simultaneously kept people ‘in’ or ‘out’. As we prepare our transportation network to accommodate millions more Americans and freight demands in the coming years, we must consciously seek to ensure access for all. And by “all” I mean everyone affected by the projects we build.
CityLab’s Laura Bliss hit the nail on the head when she wrote, “If transportation infrastructure is a nation’s connective tissue, then the U.S. has excelled at severing its own parts.” So tomorrow, we're hosting a national virtual town hall to talk about how we’re going to change the course for our future.
For months now, many of you have read and heard about the integral role transportation has played in connecting people to opportunity. It's also true that our nation's transportation infrastructure has created social and economic barriers that –with proper planning and inclusive decision-making– we can correct and prevent.
Thanks to the TIGER program, since 2009, I’ve been able to witness 381 transportation projects shape this country’s future. Projects that are safer, more innovative and more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.
Today, in Burlington, Vermont was no different. I am proud to announce that the Department will provide $10 million to extend Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express passenger train service all the way to Burlington, Vermont. Currently, the service begins in New York City and stops in Rutland, Vermont.
As a community pediatrician, I have had the privilege to provide high-quality care to low-income and vulnerable populations. Despite the administration of vaccines, medical treatments and screenings, many of my patients continued to suffer high levels of chronic disease and often could not comply with prescribed treatments. Inadequate housing, failing schools, lack of access to affordable and healthy foods in addition to inaccessibility to transportation collectively created a milieu that challenged their ability to be healthy.
As I told the readers of the Philadelphia Social Innovation Journal, understanding the link between access, opportunity and health is not just siloed to the public health community. Cross sector involvement is crucial to ensure that individuals not only have access to healthcare services, but also to adequate housing, healthy food, education and jobs, all of which contribute to improving outcomes. With growing income inequality across the country, a person’s zip code has a greater impact on health and overall success than any other metric.
As part of NHTSA’s mission to help Americans drive, ride and walk safely, the agency is expanding the recall of Takata air bag inflators to include an additional estimated 35-40 million inflators. This is on top of 28.8 million Takata inflators already under recall, more than a quarter of which have been repaired.
NHTSA is taking this action because we now have new data that shows why these air bag inflators fail and we want to make sure that Americans are safe in their vehicles. Failures of Takata air bag inflators have been tied to ten deaths and more than 100 injuries in the United States.
Families in more than 47 states in communities nationwide, from Cloquet, Minnesota, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Lahaina, Hawaii, celebrated the joy of bicycling to school and the importance of safety yesterday for the fifth annual National Bike to School Day celebration. Over 2,100 schools nationwide registered for the event and the number will continue to grow through the end of May.
Yesterday, to help support this annual push to get more kids biking and walking to school safely, I joined the Bike to School Day celebration in Washington, D.C. with over one hundred students from 10 Capitol Hill area schools. The excitement and joy from the children offered a wonderful example of the need for more safe environments for our children to walk and bike to school.
One word that often comes up in discussing unmanned aircraft – “drones” – is innovation. Every week it seems someone comes up with a new technology or a new use for these amazing aircraft. We’ve come a long way from where we were just a handful of years ago. In 2012, thousands – rather than hundreds of thousands – of drones were being sold annually. There were no drone sightings near airports. Nobody was shooting at drones that flew over their backyards or flying a drone into trees at the White House.
Fast forward to today. A few weeks ago, we said in our annual forecast the combined sales of hobbyist and commercial drones could surge from 2.5 million aircraft this year to a staggering 7 million in 2020. Drone technology development is so compressed that new products are flying out of the design studio and into factories in the blink of an eye.
If we want to be a nation where everyone is connected – where transportation is a thread that knits communities together – then we need to make sure our infrastructure design is as inclusive as it can be. Transportation infrastructure choices made at the Federal, State and local levels can strengthen communities, create pathways to jobs, and improve the quality of life for all Americans.
A majority of transportation infrastructure planning is done at the local level, so we are working to empower state and local leaders to use existing resources to support transformative transportation projects in their communities. Cities like Baltimore and Richmond prove that by prioritizing local needs while ensuring that everyone has access to safe, efficient, and reliable transportation, we can simultaneously expand connectivity and access to opportunity.
All week, the nation is celebrating Public Service Recognition Week to uplift the men and women who serve our nation as federal, state, county and local employees. We honor their dedication and service fueled by their efforts to come together to change our country for the better. DOT alone employs almost 55,000 people across the country, in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and its Operating Administrations and bureaus. So I must highlight their work over the past 50 years that continues to keep citizens safe and connected to their communities through our vast transportation system.