Today, the Interstate system turns 60. On this date in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 into law from his hospital bed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., only two days after it was passed by Congress. It didn’t give us a nation, but it certainly helped to ensure our 50 states were united. Back then, there were only 48 states – Alaska and Hawaii were only territories then.
As the highway system grew, so too did the nation. Where better quality, high-speed interstates took root, businesses and suburbs followed. As you can see from this population density map spanning the decades, America’s population centers were as linked to interstates as they are today.
The Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets is in its final stretch, and we are hearing more and more about the impressive accomplishments of the 246 participating communities.
In March, I announced that we would recognize the great work that these communities are doing to advance pedestrian and bicycle safety with the Mayors’ Challenge Awards. Awards will be considered for work relating to the seven Challenge Activities, Ladders of Opportunity, and for best use of DOT resources and active engagement in Challenge events. We will be excited to recognize the award winners this September at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place Conference in Vancouver, BC and at the Safer People, Safer Streets Summit here in Washington, DC.
“If you are going to innovate, you have to have a passion for what you do.”
Nancy Egan, General Counsel and EVP of Policy at 3D Robotics, drew that connection between innovation and passion during our discussion at USDOT’s Innovation Fair last week. Surrounded by a trade fair showcasing new hardware and concepts by department innovators and their partners, we looked for lessons from small business that could apply to government.
Today, I traveled to Philadelphia and met Mayor Kenney on the plaza of the Vine Street Expressway. For Philadelphians, this roadway represented almost 30 years of planning and was intended to expedite commuting between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, ultimately decreasing half-hour trips to just a few minutes. However, that vision was never realized and three communities, including Chinatown and the Callowhill District bore the brunt of the damage as many homes, businesses, schools, places of worship, and other places of cultural and community significance were razed to make way for the expressway. Presently, the Vine City Expressway is a six-lane corridor not easily navigated on foot or in vehicle, and represents a very real, physical barrier for those that must traverse it daily.
Whether it’s North, South, East or West, infrastructure development and placement can have a profound impact on opportunities. Highways like the Vine City Expressway are not unique to Philadelphia or to large cities across the country – they are both urban and rural divisions. That’s why U.S. DOT is also proud to partner with Philadelphia, PA; Spokane, WA; Nashville, TN; and the Twin Cities, MN to offer technical assistance through the Every Place Counts Design Challenge to work to rectify these issues.
Our nation is entering a transportation landscape rich with possibility, and full of challenges. As we witness the emergence of driverless cars, unmanned package deliveries, smart cities and other exciting changes, technology is going to play a key role in ensuring the safety and reliability of our transportation system, while also offering more Americans the ability to reach economic opportunity.
Simply put, technology offers us a powerful ability to improve the way we live and move going forward. That’s why Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center, is excited to be launching The Future of Transportation: Safety, Opportunity, and Innovation. This four-month program will bring together top innovators who are thinking beyond the horizon about the big issues defining transportation in the 21st century—and will advance the ongoing conversation started by Secretary Foxx’s framework for the future, Beyond Traffic 2045.
In the last decade, our energy landscape has fundamentally changed. A prime example is the growth in natural gas production – our country is a leading producer of natural gas, a relatively clean fuel that heats millions of homes and provides nearly a third of our total electric power generation this year. While the growth in domestic natural gas production has strengthened our economy and energy security, it has created transportation challenges as we move more natural gas across the country.
That is why I want to express my gratitude to the President for signing into law the PIPES Act of 2016.
So by now, you’ve heard.
Ohio finally got to bring home the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship trophy.
While I missed the parade in Cleveland, today I was joined by Mayor Andrew Ginther in Columbus to congratulate them on a hard-fought yet deserving Smart City Challenge win.
The U.S. interstate highway system helps society. Highways help people get to and from work and get goods to market – thereby supporting the world’s most powerful economy. Thanks to a partnership signed last month by the FHWA with six states, the highway system is also helping to strengthen the pollinator community, which includes bees and Monarch butterflies, along I-35 from Texas to Minnesota.
Every third bite of food on our plates is there thanks to the work of pollinators, making the health of our bee and butterfly population an issue that affects everyone. And now, the transportation community is playing an important role in keeping them healthy and thriving by helping to turn our roadways into pollinator-friendly habitats.
At the USDOT, we promote the safety of the traveling public. To do that, we’ve relied heavily on creativity. We’ve inspired a culture of innovation, and – to paraphrase a line from Star Wars – the force of our innovation is strong. From unmanned aerial vehicles to bridge-inspecting robots, the marvels showcased in yesterday’s “Innovation Fair” here at USDOT headquarters proves that.
The Interstate system itself represents one of the greatest innovations in the nation’s history. A network of uniformly built roads connecting communities to each other makes us more than a nation – it makes our states UNITED. When President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act into law in 1956, our highway system almost immediately became a 41,000-mile-long backbone for the world’s greatest economy, changing our nation for the better.
What could you dream of doing if all of the objects in your life were connected to the internet?
I could imagine walking out of DOT HQ at the end of the day and feeling my phone buzz with a notification from my refrigerator. It warns me of a serious lack of ice cream in the freezer but, fortunately, also informs me my favorite brand of mint chocolate chip is on sale at the grocery store on the corner. Crisis averted. Sensing that I am on the move, the air conditioner in my apartment springs to life to make sure the place is comfortable when I arrive. A replacement light bulb automatically ordered by my ceiling fixture when one burned out is there when I return and a task to replace it has been added to my to-do list…
Welcome to the future, courtesy of the Internet of Things (IoT).