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On New Year's Day in 1914, the first commercial airplane flight took off between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. It flew only 21 miles and carried only one paying passenger, but it launched the world's first scheduled commercial airline service. One airline, one flight, one passenger.

In 2014, a typical day now sees 100,000 flights carrying eight million passengers, and some of those flights cover thousands of miles. It's a far cry from the world of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Bay Airboat Line.

The world's aviation community is now synonymous with jobs, with economic growth, and with world trade. The world as we know it would not function without a healthy, vibrant, and regulated international aviation system. And that system would not be possible without the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)...

Photo of leaders at ICAO anniversary plaque ceremony
Secretary Foxx, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, ICAO President Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin, and U.S. Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta unveil a plaque honoring ICAO's 70th anniversary.

 
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In Maine last week, within a day of each other, two events occurred that add up to one compelling argument for investing in America's transportation system.

One was resoundingly positive --the opening of the new Maine Kennebec Bridge-- and I was happy to observe that celebration firsthand on Friday. The other event --Thursday's collapse of a section of the Eastport Pier-- caused at least one injury and damage to several vessels and a truck.

The pier's collapse and the ongoing demand for the limited funding available to rebuild roads and bridges in Maine and across America are a clear demonstration of how we've starved our nation's transportation infrastructure for far too long...

Phot of old and new bridges across Maine's Kennebec River
New and old Kennebec River crossings; photo courtesy Kennebec Journal
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Of all the responsibilities we have at the Department of Transportation, none is more important than protecting the lives of the traveling public. Nowhere do we lose more lives than on our nation’s highways where more than 30,000 of our citizens and loved ones perish each year.

As part of our mission to improve highway safety, our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is charged with regulating the number of hours truck drivers may operate to ensure that they are not driving while fatigued. When we develop those rules, we are required and duty-bound to use the best science available to us...

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As readers of the Fast Lane know, transportation is about a lot more than just how we get from one point to another.  Transportation is, what President Obama likes to call, a ladder of opportunity.  It helps people reach better jobs and better schools, which means they can reach for –and seize– a better life.

That's especially true on Tribal Lands.

DOT is committed to working with tribal communities to build the roads, bridges, and transit systems they need.  And we've got a number of programs that are doing just that...

Phot of  reservation transit work
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In April, General Motors (GM) recalled more than two million vehicles: all 2003-2007 Saturn IONs, 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalts, 2006-2011 Chevrolet HHRs, 2007-2010 Pontiac G5s, 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstices, and 2007-2010 Saturn Skys. The vehicles were made with faulty ignition switches that create a danger of airbags not deploying during a crash. In some vehicles, the switch could cause the engine to shut off while driving.

GM now reports that enough parts are available to fix all faulty ignition switches covered by the recall, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges owners of unrepaired GM vehicles to immediately contact their local dealer to arrange a service appointment.

This is a serious safety issue that should be addressed immediately by following GM’s recommendation to "use only the ignition key with nothing else on the key ring."

Consumer alert

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As the 2014 navigation season marches along on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, shipping volumes are generally outpacing last year's levels. That's a good sign because six Great Lakes Seaway System ports have already received a Pacesetter Award this year for increasing international cargo tonnage during the 2013 shipping season. They might well be on their way to taking home another award next year!

We award the Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter when a port increases its international freight volume over the previous year. The 2014 awardees for their 2013 performance are:

  • Port of Green Bay,
  • Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority,
  • Duluth Seaway Port Authority,
  • Port of Cleveland,
  • Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and
  • Port of Monroe

Photo of Port of Green Bay

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Cross-posted courtesy of the White House Rural Council.

Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative...

Photo of hand-jarred pickled okra with quotation from President Obama

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Because our servicemen and women ensure our nation’s safety and security, it is important that we recognize their sacrifice, dedication, and professionalism. However, we owe them much more than recognition; we owe them --and they deserve-- opportunity!

Both the Maritime Administration and the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) understand this.  As a veteran myself, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to talk with other veterans in person when I speak at the 4th installment of the AMP’s “Military2Maritime” program tomorrow in New Orleans.

The program’s goal is to connect veterans and transitioning active duty personnel with jobs in America's thriving maritime industry, and so far it’s been a rousing success...

Photo of previous military to maritime event

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In August, after continued pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, child safety seat manufacturer Graco recalled over 6 million car seats.

Photo of infant in Graco safety seat

The defect involves buckles of child and infant car seats sticking or becoming stuck in the latched position, creating an unreasonable risk to a child’s life in the event of an emergency. But while the recall is good news for child safety, it's not as good as you might think; NHTSA estimates that only about 40 percent of recalled car seats are ever actually repaired. That's not nearly the rate of repairs for recalled light vehicles (75 percent), and it presents a significant safety challenge.

But NHTSA's work doesn't end when a recall is announced. Yesterday, the safety agency announced an investigation into the timeliness of Graco's reporting on the safety defect that led to the August recall...

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Since 2010, Americans have celebrated our nation's independent entrepreneurs by visiting small businesses for some post-Thanksgiving shopping on "Small Business Saturday." I was happy to take part in this new tradition by taking my quest for winter bicycling gear to Freshbikes, a cycling store here in the Washington, DC, area.

Freshbikes, like most small businesses, does more than sell stuff. As President Obama said, these are the men and women who "provide the jobs, products, and services that enrich our lives, shape our communities, and move our economy forward."

And Freshbikes is no exception; now operating three stores in the region, the company is a job creator. And they had what I needed to continue bicycling --for recreation and transportation-- even as the weather grows colder...

Photo of Secretary Foxx shopping for bike gear

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