Monday, I met Brian Orellana, a young man who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and dreams of becoming an electrician. He may just get the break he needs thanks to an innovative workforce development program that’s tied to the construction of Boston’s Green Line Extension – a new transit line that will serve his neighborhood.
In fact, the cities of Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge have all joined the MassWIN partnership, along with Boston’s transit agency, the Massachusetts DOT, and local businesses and community colleges. They’ve recognized that opportunity begins, not on the day the new rail service will open, but with the construction itself...
Fast Lane readers know that yesterday I took the Department's message to the people. And not just a handful of people either --our virtual town hall discussion reached thousands of participants from coast to coast, even as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
Heat map depicting relative volume of town hall participants by zip code
While I certainly appreciated the opportunity to make the case for a long-term transportation bill that truly funds our nation's needs and provides states, counties, and cities the certainty they need to plan for their future, I was even more grateful to see the steady stream of more than 300 questions pouring in from the town hall website, email, and Twitter. That tells me that Americans are engaged in this issue, an issue that touches their everyday lives, their families, their jobs, and their businesses.
So, now what? Well, now we do the heavy lifting. Now we get a little noisier...
The Secretary wants to explain why we need a long-term transportation bill, how it would improve the transportation you rely on, and what you can do to help make it happen. And, he wants to hear from you, too.
After all, we can't do this alone...
Last Friday, the Small Business Administration announced that, in Fiscal Year 2013, the federal government reached a key goal for the first time in eight years, with agencies awarding 23.5 percent of their contracts to U.S. small businesses.
Here at DOT, we're proud to be a leader among those agencies, earning a grade of "A+" on our annual Small Business Procurement Scorecard. In fact, we nearly doubled the federal average by awarding more than 43 percent of our procurement contracts to small businesses.
Secretary Foxx and OSDBU Director Brandon Neal with small business executives
Much of the credit for this achievement goes to our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), which provides a range of support to help small businesses compete more effectively within the transportation industry. As OSDBU Director Brandon Neal said, "It's one thing to say that small businesses are America's 'engines of growth' and 'job creators;' it's another to give those economic engines the opportunity to do what they do best. We're happy to have been able to do that year after year..."
Last week – just hours before we were scheduled to begin cutting transportation funding to states – Congress found a way to postpone the immediate crisis, and extend transportation funding ten more months, until next May.
While we at DOT are glad to avoid those painful cuts, we –along with thousands of commuters, construction workers, freight shippers and manufacturers– know that it’s still not the long-term solution that America’s transportation system really needs.
If you agree, then I want you to join me this Wednesday, August 6, at 1:00pm Eastern time for my GROW AMERICA National Town Hall...
I enjoyed my visit this week to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture air show. Events like AirVenture help us reconnect with the wonder of flight. I met with dozens of enthusiasts who share a passion for exploring the skies and a commitment to improving their skills as pilots. I even helped assemble the "One Week Wonder," a Zenith CH 750 Cruzer that will be built in a week!
I enjoyed my conversations with pilots, who are never shy about sharing their opinions. We talked about third class medical certificates and streamlining the certification process. We discussed the importance of reducing the fatal accident rate and engaging pilots in the Got Weather safety campaign. And I was proud to I deliver the message that NextGen is now for general aviation...
The good news is that Congress has avoided bankrupting the Highway Trust Fund. The bad news is that there is still no long-term certainty, and this latest band-aid expires right as the next construction season begins.
It is encouraging that the Senate voted earlier this week to act on a long-term transportation bill this year, and I hope that they will continue working toward that goal. While Congress may be able to wait until May, the country cannot. Americans deserve a multi-year transportation bill that provides the certainty that businesses and communities deserve, creates jobs, and makes necessary policy updates to lay the foundation for lasting economic growth.
To that end, I will be convening a nationwide virtual town hall on transportation in August to bring together business leaders, transportation advocates, state and local government officials, and everyday Americans who are concerned with the future of America’s transportation infrastructure. Together, we will keep working for a long-term solution by engaging people throughout America to prompt Congress to act.
As part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing initiative to reduce energy use, pollution, and waste --as well as saving taxpayer dollars!-- in Federal operations, agencies like DOT are required to release annual updates that show significant progress toward aggressive energy and sustainability goals. Last Friday, all Federal agencies did just that, and DOT is proud to say that, under the leadership of Secretary Foxx, we have continued to make significant improvements in our operations, and we now are exceeding many of the goals set by the President in 2009.
It might surprise Fast Lane readers to learn that agency improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in cost and waste can make a big difference, but they do. For example, the 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from Federal facilities since 2008 is the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road. That's roughly the same number of cars registered in the entire state of Alabama.
At DOT, we've achieved outcomes similar to other agencies, and sometimes even surpassed them. Since 2008, we have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 29.2 percent exceeding the national federal facilities average...
Summer is supposed to be a time of fun and freedom for children. But, too often during the summer months, a child left alone in a vehicle dies due to heatstroke. Already this year 19 children have died due to heatstroke; that's in addition to the 44 children killed in 2013.
So today, as we did last year, we’re asking everyone on Twitter and Facebook to help spread our lifesaving message as part of Heatstroke Awareness Day...
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of joining Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn and several other dignitaries at a ribbon cutting ceremony for Shop #3 at the Nippon Sharyo plant in Rochelle, IL. As the name indicates, this is the third expansion at this plant since 2012. Very soon, workers will start building 130 new, next-generation rail cars for California and the Midwest that are funded through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program.
Not that long ago, Shop #3, as well as Shops #1 and #2, were empty fields. Now, because of the Obama Administration’s investments in passenger rail, our Buy America program, and the hard work of so many, I was able to spend the day touring a state-of-the-art U.S. railcar manufacturing plant. What’s more, we’re rejuvenating a manufacturing industry that had gone fallow. New skilled workers are arriving, equipment and material being delivered, high-tech machines whirring and in the near future…shiny new rail cars will be rolling out the door.
It’s exciting for Rochelle, important for Illinois and historic for the Nation...