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If you’re an avid traveler, you’ve probably heard by now that the U.S. and Cuba reached an arrangement to restore scheduled air service between our two nations.

This is a great step forward in President Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba. In the past year, the U.S. and Cuba have reopened embassies in Washington and Havana and have taken many other steps to normalize relations...

Airplane in flight

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If you're like many Americans, there's a good chance you'll be going to the movies in the next couple of weeks. There's also a good chance that in the time it takes to sit through a movie—about two hours—two Americans will die in drunk driving tragedies. In total, 9,967 people died in drunk driving crashes in the United States in 2014.

The holidays are a particularly dangerous time as many celebrate the season with alcohol and then make the often deadly choice to get behind the wheel impaired.

Here at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we’re passionate about protecting Americans when they’re on the road. That’s why we team up with State and local law enforcement every holiday season to keep drunk drivers off our streets. We call it the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over holiday enforcement crackdown, and this year it runs from December 16 to January 2 —the days of celebration that too often turn deadly because of drunk driving.

More than 10,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies will be on the road to combat this safety threat. So be warned: if you drink and drive, you’ll be caught, arrested, and prosecuted. We’ll also be showing our brand new ads about the dangers of drunk driving before screenings of one of the most anticipated new films of the year, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

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With President Obama’s signature on the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, state and local transit agencies now have $305 billion to improve the nation’s public transportation systems over the next 5 years. The Act also increases Buy America requirements to 70 percent (previously 60 percent), which will boost American manufacturing.

J.M.A. logoFounded in 2013, Jobs to Move America (JMA) is a national project that is working to ensure transit investments like those provided by the FAST Act will “go the distance” by creating good manufacturing jobs in the United States for local and historically underrepresented communities, including women, people of color, persons with disabilities, veterans, and people with convictions who need a second chance.

Last week, JMA helped organize a series of activities in Washington, DC, to highlight the job-creating potential of the FAST Act and related initiatives.  On December 8, 2015, JMA joined University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst) economists to release a new study, Strengthening U.S. Manufacturing Through Public Procurement Policies. This first of its kind study finds that policies like the FAST Act’s increase in Buy America requirements can support tens of thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs.  The study also finds that much more is needed because the U.S. has lost five million manufacturing jobs in recent years. 

To advocate for a proactive job creation program by public agencies across the US, we brought 11 bus and railcar manufacturing workers from 6 states to join one of the UMass report's coauthors, Robert Pollin, Distinguished Professor of Economics, on Capitol Hill to release the study and to convey a strong message to Congress: Manufacturing jobs change lives and communities, especially when they pay well and provide training and support for careers...

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When the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) assumed temporary direct safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system in October, one of my top priorities was to ensure we are transparent in our goals and activities. 

The federal government has never before taken on direct safety oversight of a public transit system. That’s why it’s important for WMATA passengers and employees and the rail transit industry to understand what we are doing and why.

Metrorail train inspection

First and foremost, although we are directly supervising WMATA's progress, the responsibility for performing the actual work of making Metrorail and Metrobus safer still sits squarely on WMATA...

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Cover of F.H.W.A. Bike-Ped Case Studies reportIn 2014, DOT unveiled Safer People, Safer Streets, a significant effort to address bike and pedestrian safety issues nationwide and help communities create safer, better-connected non-motorized networks.  The Federal Highway Administration has been a strong contributor to this initiative, working with safety advocates, planners, and state and local DOTs to conduct safety assessments and develop strategies to improve travel for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Last week, we launched our latest step in this initiative, Case Studies in Delivering Safe, Comfortable, and Connected Pedestrian and Bicycle Networks

For Case Studies, FHWA Division Offices gathered examples of bike-ped network improvement projects initiated by State DOTs, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), counties, cities, and other entities to get a better sense of what communities are achieving. Those 86 examples –21 regional, 6 statewide, and 59 local– were categorized into several key project types, including planning and prioritization, shared use paths, corridor improvements, bridges, on-road facilities, intersections, and crossing improvements...

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Residents of the Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma rely on transit buses for many of their transportation needs, from getting to work to seeing a doctor. Cherokee tribal residents are such dedicated patrons of their rural bus system that they boosted ridership a whopping 114 percent between 2013 and 2014. The tribe now counts some 80,000 bus rides a year.

Cherokee Nation transit vehicle

The Cherokee Nation, which received a $92,500 grant to purchase eight clean fuel buses, is one of 55 tribes that received 2015 funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s Tribal Transit Program this month.  Cherokee tribal leaders set a great example for customer service-oriented transit services. They use online surveys to determine routing. They stay in touch with residents using an e-mail database of 8,000 contacts. They present at community meetings and run newspaper ads. All of that work undoubtedly paid off in the dramatic ridership increase.

The Cherokee Nation grant was part of a total of $10 million awarded nationwide in Tribal Transit discretionary grants, which fund the buses and vans that connect tribal residents with jobs, education, healthcare, and other vital services. This year, funds went to 65 projects in 18 states, providing tribal communities, most of them located far from population centers, with their only access to public transportation...

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One of the ways DOT serves the American public is by working with small businesses to find new ways to improve our nation’s roadways. Our Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program encourages small businesses to explore potential solutions to transportation challenges.

In 2009, we solicited research on a topic sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): to develop a new pavement that could generate power and transfer it to the power grid. The SBIR Phase I submission had to meet the following requirements:

  • Use recycled material;
  • Withstand traffic loads; and
  • Be durable enough to avoid costly replacement cycles.

In response to this solicitation, Solar Roadways, Inc., began proof-of-concept work. Their proposal: self-sustaining pavement, made from hexagon-shaped solar panels. If successful, this pavement could potentially eliminate the current practice of replacing asphalt, and ultimately transform the nation’s roadways into an intelligent pavement system...

Solar roadway panels
Solar roadway panels feature LED lights which can "paint" the road lines from beneath, lighting up the road for safer night time driving.
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In late October, I set an ambitious goal for our Federal Aviation Administration: to create and launch a registration system for unmanned aircraft before Christmas this year. And today, I'm pleased to write that the FAA has reached a critical milestone toward delivering on this goal.

Earlier this morning, we announced a rulemaking that will create a simple and easy online registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds. This registration system was created by gathering input from a task force that included government stakeholders and representatives from across the aviation, technology, retail, and user communities.

Under this new rule, anyone who bought a small unmanned aircraft before December 21 of this year must register by February 19, 2016. Those who purchase their aircraft after December 21, must register it before their first outdoor flight...

unmanned aircraft aloft

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In last year's Best Places to Work in Federal Government rankings, DOT earned the 8th spot among the 19 "Large Agencies," and our Federal Highway Administration also took the 8th spot among the nearly 300 "Agency Subcomponents." A year later, the Department has maintained its position and FHWA also remains a top performer, placing 13th among the now 320 sub-agencies. And, among the 75 agencies organized by mission, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) placed 8th in the Energy and Environment category.

And, while we're pleased with our relative standing --and so proud of FHWA's performance among such a large competition pool-- we're also pleased with our improvement in the employee satisfaction scores that generate those rankings.

The Department as a whole raised our score 2.7 points. And in the "Agency Subcomponent" category we had a number of significant jumps, with both our Office of the Inspector General as well as PHMSA increasing by 5.3 points and our Federal Aviation Administration up 3.7 points...

Best Places to Work logo

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Earlier this week, Jacksonville, Florida, a heavily transit-dependent community, opened the first segment of its First Coast Flyer bus rapid transit system (BRT).  The Green Line, one of five First Coast Flyer phases, now offers service from the Rosa Parks Transit Station near Jacksonville’s downtown north to Interstate-295.

Fast Lane readers might remember that it was little more than a year ago when Secretary Foxx was in Jacksonville for the groundbreaking of the Flyer’s first phase of Downtown Improvements, funded in part by our Federal Transit Administration.  And, it was only March of this year that the FTA and Jacksonville Transit Authority finalized a second grant, Small Starts funding for the now-open Green Line corridor, officially the Flyer’s second phase.

No sooner had the Green Line opened on Monday when the FTA added $19.1 million in Small Starts funding for the Flyer’s third phase, the Southeast Corridor...

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