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As I write, the M/V CAPE RAY, a 648-foot roll-on/roll-off Ready Reserve Force ship is steaming under orders towards Gioia Tauro, Italy, to load hundreds of tons of Syrian Government chemical weapon agents and precursor chemicals, before neutralizing them at sea.

With innovative safe-destruction technology welded to its decks, the CAPE RAY is the United States’ key contribution to the joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) / United Nations international effort to eliminate the Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons, and it provides the latest reminder of the important role America’s merchant mariners play in supporting our national security as well as our economy.

Photo of Ready Reserve Force M/V Cape Ray

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From DOT: Yesterday, we marked the 58th anniversary of the Highway Trust Fund, an instrumental source of road funding for all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Authorizing legislation for the fund, the Federal-Aid Highway Act, was signed into law and went into immediate effect on June 29, 1956. And for 58 years, the fund has supported repairs, maintenance, and new construction of roads, bridges, and tunnels across America.

Today, we're concerned about the 59th year. Unless Congress acts soon, the Highway Trust Fund could begin bouncing checks as early as August. That means states won't be reimbursed as planned for road projects. And that means trouble for travelers, businesses, and consumers from coast to coast.

That's why, today, we're continuing our series of guest blog posts from frontline elected officials who have to manage the consequences of the looming shortfall. We think Dayton's Mayor Nan Whaley makes it very clear how everyday American life counts on good transportation; we hope you'll agree...

Photo of replacement of Dayton-area 1927 bridge with rendering of new bridge

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We're writing to tell you about one of the most important transportation projects in Southern California: the State Route (SR) 710 gap closure.

While Los Angeles County is investing an unprecedented amount expanding our public transit system, we also are making smart highway improvements and nothing is smarter than completing the missing link in our freeway system. This project is envisioned as a freeway tunnel connecting the current northern terminus of SR 710 to SR 210 in the San Gabriel Valley.

We believe the many benefits this project brings will show you that our region is ready to invest in our future...

Photo of daily commuters cutting-through Alhambra
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Since the early days of this nation, U.S. mariners have been central to our economy and to our security. And they continue to play a central role today.

That's why supporting the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, NY is paramount to the Department of Transportation and the Maritime Administration. It's why we've invested significantly in the academy's capital improvement plan--including ongoing barracks renovation, a rebuilt Mallory Pier, and the new T/V Kings Pointer.

And it's why Acting Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen and I were so thrilled to join the Kings Point community last Saturday for the academy's 78th commencement...

Photo of traditional hats-off moment at 2014 Kings Point commencement

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I knew something significant had occurred in our country when, standing in a grocery store check-out line in 2008, I observed a copy of a popular magazine. On the cover were Ellen DeGeneres and her long-time girlfriend Portia de Rossi adorned in their wedding apparel. People as they often do with those magazines, were curiously grabbing a copy and flipping to the pages of the wedding pictures.

I didn’t know what they would say, but I certainly didn’t expect what I heard: “Wow, Portia is beautiful,” and, “This is great.” Yes, I mused, things have changed so much that a popular weekly calculated that it would be okay to put a lesbian couple on the cover; they had calculated that the country was in a place where there would be no significantly harmful backlash.

And they were right.

Photo of President Obama speaking about LGBT Pride Month

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. It is a time to recognize the often difficult decisions —and courage— of people who are homosexual, transsexual, questioning, bi-sexual, or who otherwise would not be considered part of the sexual identification norm...

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With the economy starting to make a recovery, our aging transportation infrastructure cannot keep up with the rising demand to move goods and people.  Nationwide, cities and transportation stakeholders have long lists of infrastructure improvement projects necessary to meet the demand, but there just is not enough funding to make them a reality. And worse, the Highway Trust Fund is on the brink of insolvency.

It is my hope that Congress will soon reauthorize Federal transportation policy and provide a robust, long-term stream of funding to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and support our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.

I was very pleased that Secretary Foxx recently took the time to visit the City of Industry and get a first-hand look at two of our most important infrastructure projects, the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority’s (ACE) Nogales Street Grade Separation Project (Nogales) and the California SR-57/SR-60 Confluence Project (Confluence Project). These two projects are classic examples of how strategic local infrastructure investments can trigger public benefits such as increased mobility, improved safety, economic growth, and environmental protection.

Benefits that can extend beyond city limits and ripple across the country...

Before and after photos of the Confluence

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Whether it’s an event like the Super Bowl, when thousands of business jets converge on a location or at one of the many air shows and national fly-ins that take place every year, when there's a large gathering of aircraft in the same place at the same time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) comes together to provide expert choreography in the skies and safety on the ground.

And earlier this month, FAA facilities along the Eastern Seaboard stepped up to support the Special Olympics Airlift by safely guiding the aircraft for 3,500 athletes to and from this year's games...

Photo of athletes and airlift volunteers

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Compared to cities across the country, Tampa is lucky. While we have significant needs, we haven’t had to close any bridges, and our interstate is generally an efficient way to move around our city. Our infrastructure is stable and reliable.

The problem is that we don’t have enough of it. Over the years, Tampa, like most urban areas, has grown. More and more people are moving into cities and starting new businesses. We’re growing and creating jobs, but to be blunt, we don’t have the transportation options to support our redevelopment. 

Photo of Mayor Buckhorn with Secretary Foxx

A few weeks ago, Secretary Foxx visited Tampa to take a look at our I-275 widening project. For those not familiar with our city, I-275 runs right through the heart of Tampa, connecting the University of South Florida with downtown and the Westshore business district to the beaches of Pinellas County. This project has been in the works since 1989.

You read that right. 1989...

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It should be clear to Fast Lane readers by now that we at DOT are not the only ones trying to alert Americans to the fact that our Highway Trust Fund is on a collision course with insolvency.

On ARTBA's Transportation Makes America Work website, you'll learn that our highways and railroads carry 14.6 trillion tons of freight each year, freight worth $19 trillion. It's an eye-opening way of showing that transportation means business, and that business is in jeopardy...

Infographic illustrating the volume and value of freight moved by America's transportation system

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Last week, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to heads of State DOTs across the country advising that, with the Highway Trust Fund heading toward insolvency as early as August, we will soon be forced to implement cash management procedures —including delayed reimbursement for hundreds of road projects that employ thousands of workers.

To show readers how this funding crisis will touch their everyday lives, we’re turning over the Fast Lane to Mayors and Governors across the country this week, who are working on the frontlines to manage the possible consequences of a shortfall.  Each morning this week, we're featuring guest-authored posts illustrating how all Americans will be affected if the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to dip below zero.

We hope you find them as compelling as we do.


Car-mageddon indeed!

The building, rebuilding, and repair of highways and bridges throughout the United States is heading toward a dramatic slowdown –perhaps even a complete halt– this summer. The Federal Highway Trust Fund, source of federal transportation funding for all the states, will run out of money in late August, and Congress has not figured out a way to save it.

To understand what this means --and why it is bad news for every American-- one needs to understand how we as a nation build and maintain the streets, roads, and bridges we depend on every day. Ours is a national system that carries the life blood we know as daily commerce, the moving of people and goods to homes, schools, work sites, and travel destinations.

Nowhere is it more important than in my home state, Kentucky, where motor-vehicle manufacturing, freight movement, agricultural exports, and tourism are pillars of our economy.

Auto manufacturing in Kentucky

Simply put, this immensely valuable system would not be possible without the support of the Federal Highway Administration and funding through the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

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