It's easy for a Chief Data Officer at DOT to feel invested in an event called Transportation Datapalooza. And it's easy for the data scientists, transportation planners, and app developers who presented their work on Tuesday and Wednesday to feel a similar investment. After all, the goal of our Datapalooza --improving the collection of transportation-related data, improving the tools to analyze that data, and improving the transportation decisions informed by that data-- is what these men and women are all about.
But I can assure you that even Fast Lane readers whose eyes roll at the very mention of "big data" actually have a big investment in the projects and developments discussed here at DOT Headquarters over the past two days. Because transportation touches the lives of every single American, the improvements that Datapalooza is designed to nurture also touch the lives of every single American.
Whether the data advances we're talking about lead to more focused road maintenance investments or more efficient bus transit routes, in the end it's all about using limited resources to get Americans where they need to go and moving American freight more efficiently, more sustainably, and --most of all-- more safely...
One of the most important jobs we have at DOT is to make sure rural Americans are connected --to each other; to schools, jobs, and medical care; to the 21st century global economy.
Freight transportation, for example, is a huge concern for rural communities. Farmers can't get their crops to market without it. And with margins as tight as they are, the cost of that transportation can determine whether their crops are profitable.
And it’s not just freight transportation that makes a difference in the lives of rural Americans. When you're separated from your neighbors or the nearest town by miles, personal transportation matters. Rural communities are often transit deserts, where those who can't drive are isolated from the basics --like groceries and doctors-- and from opportunities --like jobs and schools.
That’s why DOT sent GROW AMERICA, a long-term transportation bill that includes funding solutions for rural concerns, to Congress...
This morning in the Fast Lane, Secretary Foxx reiterated the warning of our Beyond Traffic draft 30-year transportation forecast: “A tidal wave is coming for us in transportation, a wave of people and freight….Our infrastructure system, which struggles to meet its current challenges, won't be able to ride the coming wave. Especially when you consider today's transportation funding situation.”
Fortunately, many communities across the U.S. —like those in our Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets— have embraced an approach that reduces roadway congestion and stretches our transportation dollars: bicycle infrastructure. Even better, improving bicycle infrastructure boosts economic growth...
We talk a lot about Metropolitan Planning Organizations here in the Fast Lane. Congress created MPOs to make sure that transportation projects and programs that use Federal dollars are based on a broad planning process that considers a wide range of interests.
I sat on my local Metropolitan Planning Organization back in Charlotte. I know how grueling the day-to-day work can be; you're dealing with a thousand stakeholders, planning and shepherding projects --sometimes at a maddeningly slow pace-- from lines on a blueprint to steel and concrete in the ground. But it's also rewarding work because MPOs connect people to the opportunities their region offers.
You see, the work of transportation is not just connecting people to each other; it's also the work of expanding opportunity, of giving people access to a better life.
Unfortunately, as I told the National Association of Regional Councils yesterday, the work MPOs have been doing since Congress mandated them in 1962 is getting more and more difficult...
Mobile, Alabama, has one of the largest, most productive ports in the country –a port that is pumping billions of dollars into Alabama’s economy every year. The Port of Mobile has a container terminal linked up with five railroads, two highways, and 15,000 miles of waterways. An Airbus facility being built nearby --specifically for port access-- will open this year, and hire about 1,000 people.
Mobile is not alone in enjoying the benefits of a major port. According to a recent study, America’s seaports generated $4.6 trillion in total economic activity and supported 23 million jobs in 2014. That's up 43 percent since 2007 and accounts for 26 percent of the nation’s $17.4 trillion economy.
Which sounds like good news. But alarmingly, a survey entitled The State of Freight, released the same day by the Association of American Port Authorities identified a current need of $29 billion in port infrastructure investment just to be able to handle projected freight volumes in 2025. The survey also identified great need for investment in intermodal connectors, with 80 percent of ports needing at least $10 million in investment and 30 percent needing at least $100 million...
A motorist is 20 times more likely to die in a crash involving a train than a collision involving another motor vehicle. And, more than half of all car-rail collisions occur at railroad crossings equipped with active warning devices such as flashing lights and gates.
Let all that sink in before your next trip traveling where roads and rails cross.
Rail crossing safety in the U.S. is a challenge as old as the rail lines that began converging with roads in the 19th Century, but it's a challenge that can be improved by making travelers more aware. That’s why the U.S. Department of Transportation’s railroad, transit and highway agencies are teaming up with Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI), to save lives by helping to fund OLI’s “See Tracks? Think Train!” public awareness campaign.
OLI unveiled its latest video public service announcement today --International Level Crossing Awareness Day-- when more than 40 countries worldwide conduct public awareness efforts to promote safety at railroad crossings...
Take a moment to envision a transportation super center –one facility connecting rail and road to a thriving port– that builds the local economy and adds to the national economy while supporting long-term, good-paying jobs. Working hand in hand with state and Federal partners, the Port of Duluth–Superior is making that idea a concrete reality with the Duluth Intermodal Project.
Last week, I was on site at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority as they broke ground on this ambitious project that will help ensure the port’s future. Supported by a $10 million TIGER grant, along with funds from the State of Minnesota and Duluth Seaway Port Authority, the Duluth Intermodal Project is real innovation in action.
Thorough planning by port leadership coupled with partnered investment will rebuild two docks and connect them to rail and road corridors to better meet the 45 percent increase in domestic freight volume that we know must be moved by 2045...
Secretary Foxx has talked a lot about the cost of transportation funding shortages --and for good reason. Last week, I visited the site of a project that exemplifies exactly what has been happening all around the country: the US 395 North Spokane Corridor or NSC. The NSC remains half-built, and there is simply no funding to build the second half, the remaining five miles that would connect it to Interstate 90.
From one standpoint, the project really symbolizes what’s right in transportation today. The people of this region came up with a project that would improve safety and reduce congestion.
The bad news is that --after 33 short-term, underinvesting extensions by Congress-- we still don’t have the federal funding to complete the NSC. Or to complete thousands of other projects like it across the country. Or to even start the thousands of other projects communities have planned to meet their most pressing transportation needs.
The NSC and its half-built and unbuilt counterparts do not need the short-term patch of another Congressional extension. They need the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress in March. They need the substantial investment this nation has put off for far too long. They need a long-term timeline that lets communities plan and invest in projects that will create jobs, improve residents' quality of life, and help the local economy grow...
Acting FHWA Administrator Greg Nadeau with Washington State Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, courtesy FHWA.
When then Secretary Norman Mineta rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2004 to announce a new monthly transportation index, he kicked off a new era in the use of statistics for measuring transportation. In the decade since, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the DOT’s data agency, has been applying its advanced statistical methods to track the level of transportation activity, issuing an index number every month.
During the past 11 years, the BTS Transportation Services Index (TSI) has shown the changes in transportation activity, including both its low in the 2007-2009 recession and its record highs in recent months...
Transportation Services Index (TSI) Freight and Passengers (Year 2000=100)
Today the House of Representatives voted on its 33rd short-term funding measure for transportation in the past 6 years, and Americans will pay the price.
On the surface, funding transportation drop-by-drop might not seem like such a big problem. But it is, and the facts are unassailable. This era of short-term patches and chronic federal underinvestment has crippled America’s ability to build the transportation system we need.
This is not anyone's idea of the preferred outcome. And while we recognize that Congress needs more time to complete work on what we do want –a long-term bill that increases investment in our nation’s infrastructure, the White House has made it clear that this pattern of perpetual uncertainty must stop...