At the Federal Highway Administration, we’ve reached the end of the year but definitely not the end of the road.
Last January, I helped kick off the year near the Piscataqua River between Kittery, Maine, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at the first groundbreaking of any U.S. bridge for 2015 – the $201 million Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement project, which relies heavily on a $25 million TIGER grant and other federal funds. Originally slated to open 2 years later in 2017, that project set the tone for what proved to be a year filled with historic achievements and new beginnings.
For example, America’s highways and byways carried more U.S. drivers than ever before, with an estimated 3.1 trillion vehicle-miles traveled expected this year. And overall freight tonnage is estimated to have increased this year as well. With more drivers, more freight, and more overall weight, America’s highways and byways are doing more work than ever...
My career in public service has taught me that transportation is something we absolutely must do together. When I was the mayor of Charlotte, I made investments in transportation the center of the Queen City’s job creation and economic recovery, and the U.S. Department of Transportation played a critical role in helping us move forward.
So when President Obama asked me to serve in this position, I was both humbled and thrilled because I knew that the work of USDOT really matters. But I also knew, although we had been able to break ground on some ambitious projects in Charlotte, the larger reality was that projects were being canceled or delayed all over the country. The traditionally strong funding support authorized by the U.S. Congress was in fact at an all-time low. On my first day at USDOT, it had been more than eight years since Congress had passed a long-term surface transportation bill, and my efforts to push hard for a long term bill began immediately.
President Obama had been supportive of investing in first-class infrastructure and on Capitol Hill there was actually strong bipartisan support. But the message we kept hearing was, “let’s do this later.” I worked with my team to develop a campaign to turn the corner from “impossible” to “inevitable.”
So we scheduled hundreds of Congressional meetings. We went on two bus tours and I met with leaders in 43 states to galvanize support. The President and I even twice submitted our own surface transportation bill proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, to give Congress a clear sense of the certainty, funding levels, and policies we need in the 21st century.
Today we finally broke through. President Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act into law, marking the first long-term transportation bill passed by Congress in 10 years...
By Sunday morning, the turkey will have been eaten, perhaps a slice or two of pumpkin pie as well. Hours and hours of football will have been watched on television. Store shelves will have been decimated in the annual frenzy known as Black Friday.
And millions of Americans will be hitting the highways to return home from Thanksgiving destinations near and far.
The Sunday after Thanksgiving is a notoriously busy day of highway traffic, and that makes it equally notorious for flaring tempers and aggressive driving. That’s why the U.S. Senate recently passed a resolution designating it Drive Safer Sunday...
This week, while many of us gather with our families and friends to give thanks, we at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) remind Fast Lane readers that many of America's commercial truck drivers won't be at their family's table. Instead, they'll be out there on the road, making sure that store shelves will be stocked for Black Friday, that the groceries your guests have consumed can be replenished, and that the wheels of our nation's economy continue to turn.
Our appreciation for the valuable role America's truckers play in our daily lives and in our economy is one reason we're so keen on making sure they have safe parking available on our highways.
Last August, we released the Jason’s Law Truck Parking Survey results confirming a nationwide shortage of safe truck parking. The survey report pointed to a lack of truck parking information and capacity across the nation and called for public and private stakeholders to come together and find solutions. The Department responded by convening the National Truck Parking Coalition to do just that. And earlier this month, we held a roundtable with stakeholders to kick off the coalition's work...
Since we announced our 2015 TIGER grants late last month, we've been talking a lot about the tremendous difference TIGER projects make in their communities and about the impact they have on important national priorities like mobility, safety, sustainability, and even public health.
And yesterday at Houston's recently opened Buffalo Bayou Park, I had the great privilege of sharing one of our TIGER projects with one of America's strongest champions of infrastructure investment, Vice President Joe Biden.
The $15 million grant we awarded to the City of Houston in 2012 for construction of new, safe, and accessible connections to transit service is a powerful example of how DOT's TIGER can help communities achieve multiple goals with a single transportation project...
Today, the American Highway Users Alliance released a report identifying the 50 worst traffic bottlenecks on American highways, providing even more truth that America is stuck in traffic.
The question is: What is the country going to do about it?
After 36 short-term extensions, I am encouraged that Congress is finally conferencing on a long-term surface transportation bill, and to see that there are many places where the proposed House and Senate bills align with needs we foresaw in the GROW AMERICA Act.
At the U.S. Department of Transportation, we aren’t reserved about our ambitions for the future of roadway safety.
In 2012, traffic fatality rates fell to historic lows. Our roadways saw just 1.14 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. In 2013, that number fell even lower to 1.10 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Passenger vehicles, large trucks, motorcycles, and pedestrians all saw declines in crash-related fatalities.
In fact, since 2004, road fatalities have dropped 25 percent. And since this Department’s founding, the United States has seen the motor vehicle fatality rate drop by 80 percent.
But, while we’re proud of this accomplishment, we know it is not enough. Our vision for the future of road transportation is one Toward Zero Deaths, and yesterday I was proud to honor winners of the 2015 Roadway Safety Awards, who share our vision.
Since 1985, the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville has played an important role in handling millions of tons of steel, grain, fertilizer, salt, and other bulk cargoes for both inbound and outbound markets --domestic and abroad. The port's central location connects the Midwest to the world with the Inland Waterways System, providing year-round access to the Great Lakes as well as ocean vessels in the Gulf of Mexico that can be transloaded with barges coming from or going to Jeffersonville. Trade through the port supports tens of thousands of jobs for Hoosiers and Kentuckians employed by the companies and farms that utilize the port every day, generating nearly $1.5 billion in economic value every year.
While the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville provides a number of competitive advantages to the Louisville region that includes southeast Indiana and north-central Kentucky, we know continued investments in infrastructure are crucial for ports to meet the predicted growth in freight, alleviate surface transportation congestion, and provide alternatives for shippers. It's good to see that DOT knows that, too.
Last month, Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen visited the port to announce the award of a $10 million DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery —or “TIGER”— grant...
The world watched recently as two phenomenal runners –one American, the other Japanese– raced side by side in the final miles of the New York City Marathon, trading sixth and seventh places. It was not until the very end that Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi slipped ahead of America’s Meb Keflezighi by just three seconds. It looked like the runners were competing very intensely against each other, and they were.
But they were also collaborating.
After turning in one of the best performances by a Japanese runner in the New York race’s history, Kawauchi in fact told reporters that without such competition, “I probably wouldn’t have been able to push it this hard. I owe this race to Meb.” Meanwhile, Keflezighi, who is 40 and ran the fastest marathon by a masters runner in American history, credited Kawauchi for helping him break the record.
As I visited Japan last weekend, it struck me that this moment in sports was a microcosm of the U.S.-Japan alliance. For 70 years, our countries have stood together as partners. We have run side by side --in a way competing, but mostly trying to push each other forward. President Obama and Prime Minister Abe have been trying to break through barriers --ranging from trade to climate change-- to further strengthen our bond. I went to Tokyo, in turn, to reaffirm our longstanding commitment to helping each other improve our transportation systems...
Since we announced our first round of awards in 2010, DOT’s TIGER program has supported transportation projects that promise to transform cities, rural communities, and regions. For the 2015 TIGER grants --our seventh round—we’ve also selected a project whose benefits will help an entire state.
The State of Texas is receiving a TIGER 2015 grant for $20.8 million to replace more than 300 old and unreliable buses and vans in rural communities across the Lone Star State –the state with the largest rural population in America. These funds will also help build four new facilities to help maintain those vehicles and make it easier for people to connect to public transportation.
“Our rural residents rely on these transportation services to commute between jobs, school, doctor’s appointments, and other destinations that help them maintain their independence while also contributing to the economy,” said TxDOT Executive Director LtGen Joe Weber, USMC (Ret). “Without this funding, more than 70 percent of the rural transit fleet used for such services would be outdated by 2017.”