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I was not yet born when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but like so many of my generation, I am a product of that important legislation. And this afternoon in New Orleans, I had the great privilege of celebrating the 50th anniversary of that historic moment with Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson, whose ancestors played a key role in the progress of American civil rights.

Homer Plessy was arrested in New Orleans in 1892 for riding in the White-only car of an East Louisiana Railroad train. Many of us are familiar with Rosa Parks and segregated bus seating, and we're familiar with the abhorrent "separate but equal" principle established by the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v Ferguson, but not as many people know that Plessy also involved segregated transportation.

That unfortunate decision stood for decades until Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and, eventually, the Civil Rights Act we celebrate today.

Photo of Secretary Foxx with Mayor Landrieu and Keith Plessy

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In his first official blog post one year ago today, newly sworn-in Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wrote that, "Whether it is a bus, road, train, plane, or ship, our transportation system --at its best-- connects people to a better quality of life."

A year later, that initial statement remains the clearest description of what Secretary Foxx and this Department have worked so hard to do over the past 12 months--connect Americans to a better quality of life.

And we're happy to report that, with the Secretary's leadership, we've made significant headway toward that goal...

Photo of Anthony Foxx being sworn in as Secretary of Transportation

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Since I came into office a year ago tomorrow, I have been sounding the alarm bell on the need for greater transportation investment and a stable Highway Trust Fund.  

To quickly recap:

  • In January, we began posting our Highway Trust Fund tickers online and updating them monthly to allow the public to watch our transportation dollars dwindle towards zero.
  • In April, we raised awareness about this problem by taking a bus tour through eight states.
  • In May, we sent to Congress the GROW AMERICA Act, our four-year, $302 billion transportation funding proposal. 

Today we have an update –and the news isn’t good.

This morning, I sent letters to each state DOT CEO, and to our nation’s transit agencies, outlining the steps we will take when the Highway Trust Fund starts approaching zero. 

Graph depicting the Highway Account end-of-month balances actual and projected for 2014

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At DOT, safety has always been our first priority, but it wasn’t until two years ago that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) was finally granted the authority to oversee the safety of all of America’s individual public transportation systems. While NHTSA oversees all of the nation’s cars, and FHWA ensures the safety of your roads and bridges, there was no federal role when it came to the nation’s subways, inter-city buses and other forms of public transit until 2012. 

We got to work right away.  One of the agency’s first steps in establishing our authority was to set up a new Office of Transit Safety and Oversight (TSO), which marked its first birthday last week.

The importance of safety in public transit was brought into stark relief on June 22, 2009, when a faulty signal resulted in a Metro rail accident in Washington, DC, that killed nine and injured dozens more. Although a rare occurrence, the tragic Fort Totten crash helped galvanize a bipartisan effort in Congress that responded to President Obama’s call for a Federal role in transit safety oversight.

In its first year, TSO has been working hard to put in place the policies and skilled team needed to help make a safe mode of travel even safer...

Photo of MBTA Green Line

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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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