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Over the weekend this Department released a National Freight Strategic Plan that we hope will wake the country up and get us moving forward.

Port ofSeattle

Our freight network has been one of the great strengths of our country. Millions of Americans wake up in the morning and go to jobs operating trucks, trains, aircraft, ships, and barges. Freight directly supports 44 million jobs.

And our freight workers do more than ensure goods move successfully from one point to another. What they really do is move our economy. Because the cost of moving goods in America is one of the lowest in the world, the jobs these men and women do give us a competitive advantage over other nations.

Our freight infrastructure should be as good as our workers are, as our businesses are. But it’s not. It’s crumbling. And, we're making matters worse by continuing to underinvest.

It's time for this generation to shoulder the burden, face our transportation challenges, and keep improving our Nation's freight network...

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When we issued our draft report, Beyond Traffic, we started a conversation on the trends and choices facing the Nation’s transportation infrastructure over the next three decades. The report outlines a number of challenges –an anticipated 70 million more Americans by 2045, a 45 percent increase in freight volume, frequent extreme weather events-- and predicts nationwide gridlock unless we act soon to manage those challenges.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to honor as White House Champions of Change in Transportation 11 individuals whose innovative efforts have helped us do exactly that.

These Champions from across the country, various modes of transportation, and unique backgrounds have demonstrated exemplary leadership and creativity. Their work has led to the kinds of innovative solutions required to usher in a 21st Century American transportation system that is safe, effective, and accessible...

2015 Champions of Change in Transportation

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You might not expect the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to write about what her agency is doing to help more people join the middle class, but that is exactly what I’m about to do. With safety oversight and regulatory support from FMCSA, trucking connects people to opportunity.

Last month, I was honored to speak at the Women in Trucking conference in Dallas about the important issue of connecting people in all communities to economic opportunities.  I met so many women there who were involved in all facets of the trucking industry –from fleet owners, to drivers, to logistics and marketing professionals.  

Most of the women I talked to are creating better opportunities for themselves and their families, and they have found it in the ever-expanding trucking industry...

Daphne Jefferson and Women In Trucking president Ellen Voie
Deputy Administrator Jefferson with Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women In Trucking.
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As our population grows by 70 million over the next 30 years, we know that a boom in freight demand is coming.

At the same time, we know that the median age of America's truck drivers --the folks who we'll need to move and deliver that freight-- is higher (49) than the median age of all workers (42), so we can expect a wave of driver retirements just when we'll need more and more drivers. We also know that the trucking industry is already experiencing a shortage of drivers right now, with the American Trucking Associations indicating a need to hire 47,500 drivers this year alone, just to meet existing demand.

To trucking industry experts, the combination of those trends sounds like a perfect storm. 

Fortunately, America's military Veterans, the men and women who have already served their nation so well, might be called to serve again --this time behind the wheel. And last week, our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced nearly $2.3 million in grants to 13 technical and community colleges across the country to help train veterans and their families for jobs as commercial bus and truck drivers.

Photo of college classroom with students, some veterans

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While the Federal Highway Administration continues to innovate toward the future, we also know it’s important to address issues that have concerned roadway engineers in the past.  Design flexibility is one of those areas that have interested State DOTs and local governments for a while. And today, we're proposing to revise current policies to encourage road design that is better tailored to community needs.

Flexibility means that state, city, and county engineers can develop projects --such as lower-speed roads-- that meet the needs of a full range of users -drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders.  We also want those projects to support communities’ environmental needs and to connect people to work, school, health care, and other essential services.  

These benefits are at the heart of our emphasis on making sure transportation projects create access to opportunity for all users of America's roads...

Seattle's Dexter Road

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Last month here in the Fast Lane, we announced our Beyond Traffic 2045: Reimagining Transportation speaker series. And on September 18, Secretary Foxx and Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology Gregory Winfree kicked off this extended look at the future of how America moves.

We've designed this series to inform the ongoing national dialogue on Beyond Traffic, DOT’s 30-year framework for the future. To give you an idea of the series --and to share some of our first speaker's expert insights-- we put together a video below highlighting the series’ first talk by Andrew McAfee. McAfee is co-director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on the Digital Economy and co-author of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies.

McAfee’s ideas on finding the right mix of human and technological strengths will have significant implications for what our transportation system will look like in 2045, and we urge you to check out the video below.

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It's no secret to Fast Lane readers our transportation maintenance is lagging behind our growing need or that yesterday’s infrastructure will not meet tomorrow’s demand. We’re going to have 70 million more people in the next 30 years, and our ability to get where we need to go and move freight is already constrained.

And while freight grows domestically, we also have the widening of the Panama Canal, which will bring bigger ships and heavier loads into our ports. Despite the tremendous job America's ports do each and every day, meeting the triple challenge of expanding demand, larger vessels, and heavier loads will be no easy lift.

Fortunately, at the Port Newark Container Terminal (PNCT) in New Jersey, our Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) is part of a promising model for meeting those challenges. BATIC, which I wrote about here on Tuesday, is helping the PNCT explore financing options and eligibilities for its $230 million infrastructure modernization project...

Secretary Foxx at Port Newark

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Yesterday, NASA released data indicating evidence for liquid water on Mars, and it's got a lot of people pretty excited, including me. But the reality is, whether we find water on Mars or not, we have important needs to attend to right here on Earth. And we will have to attend to those for a very long time.

One of those needs is to create and maintain a transportation system that gets people where they need to go and delivers the goods that drive our economy and sustain our lives. And while building roads and bridges might not sound as interesting as exploring the conditions for life on Mars, it's critically important to the lives Americans lead right here, right now.

Last year, President Obama charged this Department with creating the Build America Transportation Investment Center to help us accomplish that mission. And today, we are formally announcing that we have hired a talented team of individuals to operate the center, which we call "BATIC," and outlined its three areas of activity.

BATIC serves as the single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities, and project sponsors looking to harness federal transportation expertise, apply for federal transportation financing programs, and explore ways to access private capital in public private partnerships...

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In a new DOT pilot program, New York City and Pensacola, Florida, will test delivery and pickup of goods during off-peak hours, such as nighttime, to help relieve congestion on city streets. 

The problem of local traffic is well-known to any major U.S. city; truck operators suffer when forced to crawl through crowded city streets, and residents suffer when trucks block travel lanes or parking access. With commuter traffic lighter and parking more available, off-peak hours should make delivery easier for truck drivers as well as peak commuters and people scrambling for parking. 

And thanks to DOT research, development, and deployment grants totaling $200,000, these two pilot cities will helps us test this idea... 

Night time delivery eases traffic, parking concerns

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Last weekend, the Federal Highway Administration, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, the Connecticut DOT (CTDOT), and New Haven area residents celebrated the opening of the highly anticipated Pearl Harbor Memorial “Q” Bridge. This $677 million bridge –of which nearly $590 million was federal funding– is a key part of the much larger $2 billion corridor project to improve I-95 through the New Haven area.

The original “Q” Bridge –so named because it spans the Quinnipiac River– was designed to accommodate up to 40,000 drivers each day. The new bridge, a 10-lane wonder, will accommodate triple that number...

Q bridge opening ceremony

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