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At the U.S. DOT, we like to talk about Ladders of Opportunity. That means that when we’re making an investment in transportation infrastructure, we don’t just look at how it will move people around, but how it will move them upward.

There are many ways to do that, but a few key areas tend to stand out, such as how the project will improve access to things like jobs, healthcare, and education. Whether it’s a rapid bus that stops at a community college, a light rail stop at a major medical center, or a streetcar that brings revitalization to an under-served neighborhood, public transportation has a unique ability to pave the way for economic and social mobility in a way that is personal and tangible.

US Secretary Foxx Speaking at Seattle Ladders of Opportunity Event

Secretary Foxx has made Ladders of Opportunity a cornerstone of his tenure. I was so happy to join him and a great group of community leaders in Seattle for the grand opening of the University Link light rail extension.

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I had the pleasure of returning home to Charlotte, North Carolina, this week for a Southeast Rail Forum hosted by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) International and the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division. While there, however, I had to deliver a tough message –  a necessary message – about the reality of transportation in the fast-growing region.

A wave of population growth is going to hit the Southeast –  we can expect another 13 million people and a significant increase in the movement of freight by 2045. This means that local and State leaders must move quickly to develop a comprehensive blueprint for the Region’s rail network and establish a Southeast Rail Commission to advance it or risk being stuck in traffic for a very long time. While progress over the years has been steady, we are still inching along instead of sprinting. We cannot afford to wait another generation to get to the finish line.

Picture of the Cities Sprinter Amtrak locomotive

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This weekend kicks off the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C., and honors the lasting friendship between the U.S. and Japan. It’s a favorite event for Washingtonians and visitors alike. 

I hope you can get outdoors, enjoy the festivities, and take photos and video of the Nation’s Capital in bloom. But please, leave your drone at home.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is releasing a new video today to remind the public that it is against the law to fly a drone anywhere in Washington, D.C. The National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Washington, D.C., area is strictly a No Drone Zone. We appreciate the National Park Service's partnership in this important public safety education effort.

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Central to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s mission of helping Americans drive, ride, and walk safely is keeping vehicles with safety defects off of our roads. In the wake of back-to-back record years of safety recalls, the agency has worked to reform how it investigates vehicles and equipment with safety defects and ensures that they’re recalled and fixed. The U.S. Department of Transportation and 18 automakers recently finalized a historic agreement on a set of broad-ranging actions to help make our roads safer and to avoid the sort of safety crisis that generates the wrong kind of record-setting.

Our goal is a more proactive approach to recalls, one that prevents vehicles with defects from ever reaching our roads. But we’ve also known for some time that NHTSA needs a stronger hand to deal with companies that break the rules.

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In the U.S. and beyond, natural gas is an ever-present source of energy that we rely on in our daily lives. We use natural gas to heat our homes during the winter, fuel our cooktops and bbq grills, and, sometimes, even power our vehicles. Most people know that it comes from within the earth, like other commonly used fossil fuels. But how does it travel from deep underground to the back of your stove?

The answer lies within the nation’s two million-plus mile gas pipeline network, which consists of gathering lines that move gas from production sites to central collection sites; transmission lines that transport gas at high pressures over long distances from producing to consuming regions in great volumes; and distribution lines that supply natural gas to local customers, like your house or apartment building. If adopted, the rule would add new assessment and repair criteria for gas transmission pipelines and expand safety standards to include previously unregulated gathering pipelines.

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Last weekend, I traveled to South by Southwest to announce the seven city finalists of our Smart City Challenge, a competition to help one mid-sized U.S. city create a fully integrated, first-of-its-kind transportation network that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future.

Each of these finalists will receive $100,000 to build out their vision, including submitting budgets and expanding their proposals. The Department also plans to spend the next three months working with each city to develop their proposals and transform roadmaps into renderings.

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In January of last year, I issued a challenge to elected officials to make America’s streets safer for people walking and biking.  Since then, 243 cities and other local jurisdictions have signed up to the Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, with more signing up all the time. 

Today I am excited to announce the Mayors’ Challenge Awards to highlight the great work cities are doing, and stimulate further action on improving bicycle and pedestrian safety. Awards will be considered for work relating to the seven Challenge Activities, as well as for Ladders of Opportunity, and for active engagement in Challenge events. We will ask cities to submit a descriptive narrative about their successes since joining the Challenge and we will announce the winners at a Capstone event here in Washington, DC. We will invite winners to present at the Capstone, and to a special recognition event. Click here for more information about the awards and the selection process. 


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March is Women’s History Month, and, although we are always looking for innovative ways to get more women and girls interested in careers in transportation, this month allows us to focus more clearly on this goal.  

Since the founding of the United States women have played an integral role in the development and advancement of transportation. From wagons and horse carts to bicycles, automobiles, trucks, trains, ships, airplanes, and space shuttles, women have served as inventors, pilots, engineers, drivers, administrative professionals, conductors, and executives, and in a host of other vital occupations.


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The annual South by Southwest Festivals and Conferences (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, always attracts some of the most innovative thinkers in entertainment and technology. So there was no better place to hold a conversation with several of our government and industry partners on one of the most rapidly emerging and evolving sectors in aviation: unmanned aircraft systems.

The FAA's engagement with its interagency and industry partners is central to the safe integration of drones into our nation's airspace. Last fall, when we decided to create a registry for small unmanned aircraft, we brought together a diverse task force to develop recommendations for the online system. They met this challenge with an admirable willingness to come together to protect the safety of the airspace while fostering innovation in this emerging sector.

FAA Administrator Huerta speaking at South by Southwest event

Together, we created a simple tool that enables operators to register before they fly in just a few easy steps. The registry is now providing a valuable opportunity to educate hobbyists on safe flying practices. I was pleased to announce this week that 400,000 people have registered to fly.

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For more than 20 years, State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) have served as the primary oversight agencies for rail fixed guideway public transportation systems within their State. During that time, the SSOAs responsibility has been to review and approve System Safety Program Plans, oversee accident investigation and reporting, and conduct triennial safety reviews. However, SSOAs lacked the appropriate enforcement authority, and had limited funding and staff to effectively carry out their critical mission of ensuring the safety of transit passengers and workers.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act amended Federal transit law by directing the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to establish a comprehensive public transportation safety program to improve the safety of our Nation's public transportation systems, which includes an enhanced State Safety Oversight Program. Today, FTA is proud to  announce the first of four safety regulations required by Congress  will be published in the Federal Register on March 16, 2016, and take effect 30 days later.

The State Safety Oversight Program final rule  (SSO rule) replaces existing regulations and significantly strengthens an SSOA’s authority to prevent and mitigate accidents and incidents on rail transit systems to help ensure the safety of riders and workers. Each SSOA is now required to have the enforcement authority, legal and financial independence from the agencies it oversees, and human resources necessary for overseeing the number, size, and complexity of the rail transit agencies within its jurisdiction. In addition, SSOAs must train and certify personnel responsible for performing safety oversight activities and will continue to conduct triennial audits of the safety programs established by each rail transit system. 

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