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Today, we commemorate the anniversary of a legendary event in our nation’s history: The Great Locomotive Chase.

The Civil War

On this day in 1862, exactly one year after the Civil War began at Fort Sumter, Union civilian agent James Andrews led a raid deep into Confederate territory to destroy the railroad line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. The Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) line was targeted because it was a critical lifeline for the western Confederate armies. Just as railroads today serve a vital role in our nation’s transportation network, so did the W&A. Destroying the railroad line would prevent the Confederacy from re-supplying and holding Chattanooga, a strategic location against advancing Union forces.

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Every day, millions of people travel by bus throughout the United States. We at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) want to ensure that all of those passengers arrive safely to their destinations and travel safely back home.

FMCSA – along with our federal, state and local partners across the country – is conducting the 2017 National Passenger Safety Initiative. The objectives of this coordinated enforcement effort are to: Remove unsafe buses and drivers from our roadways;  improve passenger carrier safety compliance; and increase public awareness of commercial motor vehicle safety.

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Drivers know about the dangers of drunk driving and driving without a seat belt. Unfortunately, a relatively new danger has crept into the nation’s driving habits: distracted driving.

In 2015, distracted driving killed 3,477 people and injured 391,000.

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Transportation becomes even more important when communities are struggling to recover from natural disasters and catastrophic failures.  Federal support is often key to getting highways and bridges back up and running again. People often rely on these vital links in order to go about their daily lives.  Businesses also need them to move their goods and reach customers.   

The $768.2 million provided under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) program announced this week has helped restore broken transportation links in 40 state spanning the country from Alaska to Florida, including national parks and forests and other federal lands.  These funds can be used to repair damaged roads and bridges that are results of severe weather and other events not related to weather—but that are equally as catastrophic.

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As many people know, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao began her career as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration, which is one reason we were happy she spoke this week at the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) conference.

At the Maritime Administration we share the Secretary’s conviction that a healthy port infrastructure is important to the U.S. economy. Ships, after all, carry $1.5 trillion of U.S. foreign trade, and there are nearly 400,000 jobs associated with the U.S. commercial shipbuilding and repair industry.

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Yesterday, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was joined by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety advocates yesterday to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 3-7).

National Work Zone Awareness Week, sponsored each year at the beginning of construction season by federal, state and local transportation officials – along with several partners including the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – raises awareness of safety measures taken on roads all over the country. As a part of that awareness, today is national “Go Orange Day.” Those you see wearing orange are showing  their support for highway workers and their  afety, and reminding us all to drive carefully through their workplaces.

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Shortly after I was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation, I asked that the official blog name be changed from “FAST Lane” to something else.  With the distressing news that traffic injuries and fatalities have increased in recent years, it seemed to me that we should move away from a title associated with speeding.  An e-mail went out to all USDOT employees soliciting ideas for a new name and many excellent suggestions were received – so many it was hard to choose just one. 

But one did stand out:  “Connections.” 

“Connections” is an apt choice for USDOT as America’s multi-modal nationwide transportation system hinges on connections -- between flights, trains, buses, to name a few modes of travel.  And this blog is all about connecting with people, internally at USDOT and with the public we serve.  So I’m delighted with the name change and would like to thank everyone who participated in this group effort!

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April is National Safe Digging Month. Careless digging poses a threat to people, pipelines and other underground facilities, so in April, we highlight the importance of safe digging to remind homeowners and contractors about the dangers that reckless digging can cause.

Each year, damage to underground facilities results in incidents that include injuries and fatalities. To help ensure your safety, you are required to call 811—a toll-free, one-call notification center—48 to 72 hours before beginning any excavation or digging projects. By calling 811, you can verify the location of any underground facilities in and around your excavation site, such as hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines, telecommunications systems, electrical utilities, sewer pipelines and water pipelines.

 

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Fifty years ago, on April 1, 1967, USDOT opened its doors, consolidating under one roof the operations of 31 separate transportation-related entities.  This week, we hosted at USDOT an “open house” to commemorate the Department’s 50th anniversary, celebrate USDOT’s achievements, and reaffirm our commitment to addressing the challenges of today and advancing the best possibilities for the future.

Over 500 people gathered together in the atrium, including former Secretaries of Transportation Elizabeth Dole, Mary Peters and Norm Mineta, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,  Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee John Thune, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Michael Sacco, president of the Seafarers International Union of North America/AFL-CIO, other distinguished guests, friends from the Department of Labor and USDOT colleagues. 

The occasion was enhanced by the presence of transportation icons (vintage cars, a semi-truck, motorcycle), reminders of our core safety mission (crash test dummies) and examples of cutting-edge transportation technology (including autonomous vehicles and a drone).   It was a festive, informative and inspiring event.  It was also a formal kickoff to my tenure as the Secretary of Transportation, which could be characterized as a career “full circle,” as my first full-time job in public service was with USDOT. 

I’m as excited by the mission and potential of USDOT today as when I first walked in the door at the old Nassif Building headquarters.   I am joined in this can-do spirit by my dedicated colleagues at USDOT.  With infrastructure improvement at the forefront of this administration, USDOT is well-positioned to help do great things for our country!


Speakers at the USDOT 50th Anniversary Celebration & Welcoming Ceremony:  Rep. Bill Shuster - Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Michael Sacco – President of the Seafarers International Union of North America/AFL-CIO, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, former Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.   U.S. Senator John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, delivered the opening remarks and then had to rush back to the Senate to preside over the confirmation hearing of Jeffrey Rosen, the President’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

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In 2015, approximately one person died in a motor vehicle crash every 15 minutes. That terrifying statistic underscores the need for game-changing technology that can help save lives.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research shows that 94 percent of all crashes are tied to a human error, which means these deaths are highly preventable. To help drive this number down, NHTSA has been working tirelessly to promote new vehicle technologies that have the potential to help prevent crashes and save thousands of lives every year. You can purchase these technologies in many new cars today—but only if you know about them.

NHTSA wants you to be fully informed when it comes to new vehicle safety technology, so we’ve teamed up with self-described science and technology champion Adam Savage to test and explain the value of each of these. Now at Tested.com, Savage was part of the original duo that 10 years ago created and fronted Discovery Channel’s MythBusters to educate and entertain millions of viewers around the world.

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