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As Director of the DOT Office of Civil Rights (DOCR), it is my honor to help mark the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 20th Anniversary of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice. The Civil Rights Act and the Executive Order are not ideas lost to history, only to be remembered with the passing of significant milestone anniversaries. Nor are they noteworthy only to Civil Rights professionals.

Every day, here at the DOCR, we work to ensure that all Americans benefit from a transportation system that is fair and just.

And next week, we’ll host a Virtual Civil Rights Symposium to discuss the best ways to help make that happen...

Graphic advertising the DOT Civil Rights Symposium

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In 1959, if you happened to be driving in San Bernardino, California, a new freeway there could have provided you with a modern transportation route. Unfortunately, it also kept one part of town separated from the other.

But not anymore.

Last week, I traveled to California and joined officials from Caltrans, the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG)  and the City of San Bernardino at a ribbon-cutting for the I-215 widening project. This was a big undertaking and a special endeavor for a lot of reasons.

Photo of ribbon cutting for I-215

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Since Hurricane Sandy made landfall nearly 15 months ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation has worked alongside the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to help the nation’s busiest transit network recover as quickly as possible. On Friday we continued that work with a grant of $886 million to help the MTA continue rebuilding and replacing transportation equipment and facilities damaged or destroyed by the storm.

The funds we are providing will go a long way to help the MTA continue clearing debris from tunnels, rebuilding stations, and replacing electrical systems damaged by flooding. We're working to give transit riders a system that will be stronger than ever before...

Photo of workers in MTA's Montague Tunnel

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After numerous pipeline failures on Enbridge hazardous liquid pipelines in the Great Lakes region, including those in Marshall, Michigan, and Grand Marsh, Wisconsin, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) required Enbridge to take a hard look at its pipeline system and deliver a comprehensive safety plan for the entire region. To date, major work is underway on pipelines 6B and 14, two pipelines that had previously failed, but there is more work to be done throughout the system.

Here's how the comprehensive safety initiative is being implemented...

Overhead photo of containment area

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In the 1960s, public transit was in critical condition. The way people travelled and where they lived had changed; transit systems nationwide were facing declining ridership and an inability to adapt on their own. But in 1964, a new law was enacted that would change all that by providing federal support to strengthen transit. It paved the way for the later creation of a small federal agency that, over the decades, would create a partnership with state and local governments to stabilize transit and finally lead it to a full recovery. Thanks to the work of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) – later renamed the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) – the demand for transit is growing and ridership is on track to exceed 10 billion trips annually for the seventh year in a row.

Last week, I had the great pleasure of moderating a panel at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Urban Mass Transportation Act. The panel was made up of each of the living, Senate-confirmed UMTA and FTA administrators, save one. And even the one absentee sent in written remarks that I shared as part of the discussion. It was a great privilege to share the dais with so many of my capable and accomplished predecessors.

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Los Angeles, California, is our nation's second largest city, with a population of 3.8 million people. But the L.A. Metropolitan area is actually home to more than 12 million people, and if we cast our net just a bit wider to cover what's called the Greater L.A. Combined Statistical Area--the 3rd largest CSA in the world after New York and Tokyo--we're talking about nearly 18 million people. And the region continues to grow.

You don't have to be an engineer to know that creating a transportation system that can move that many people safely, reliably, and efficiently is an enormous challenge.

At DOT, we’ve been proud to support a number of transit projects in Los Angeles, from the Regional Connector Project to the Westside Subway Extension. And on Tuesday, I was proud again to join U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others to help break ground on another piece of the Southland's transportation puzzle: the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Crenshaw light rail line.

Photo of Crenshaw line groundbreaking

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Yesterday, we concluded the Maritime Administration's first National Maritime Strategy Symposium, and we're pleased that it included so many leaders who work every day providing for the economic and national security of our nation’s waterways.

The U.S.-Flag commercial fleet, crewed by U.S. merchant mariners, provides safe, reliable, and environmentally-responsible transport of cargo to support economic activity –both domestically and internationally. Maritime trade is a critical part of our country’s economy.

That’s why the three day symposium was so important. More than 250 people representing shippers, operators, labor, academics, and government agencies participated in roundtable discussions, panel sessions and presentations, all focused on developing a national maritime strategy.

Photo of merchant mariner aboard US-Flag Maersk Illinois

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Between Communities, Across Modes

Each year, the Transportation Research Board's Annual Meeting brings thousands of professionals to Washington, DC, to discuss an extraordinary range of transportation topics from the 30,000-foot policy view down to the minute details of pavement performance data. It's a real highlight of the calendar for many in the transportation community, including a lot of us here at DOT.

If you attended TRB this week, you probably heard the words "partnership" and "collaborate" more than once. And if you work in transportation, you'll probably be hearing a lot more of them.

COllage of logos from various M.P.O. across the U.S.

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Today I spoke at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual meeting about a deficit that is threatening our country and the priorities I’m proposing to counter it.

In recent years, we've been a nation careening from crisis to crisis, keeping our foot on the brakes of economic growth, and creating uncertainty because we can’t agree on how to fix a deficit. Except that the deficit most people think of --the fiscal deficit-- is not the one I mean.

I spoke today about our infrastructure deficit.

While the fiscal deficit has been shrinking, the infrastructure deficit is growing every year.

Photo collage of aging U.S. bridges, courtesy of Business Week

Continue Reading A lot on the table at TRB ››
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