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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) National Roadway Safety Culture Summit here in Washington, D.C. 

The session focused on the need to develop national safety culture, an environment that encourages people to make decisions that make our roadways safer.  This safety culture will help us combat one of the most challenging public health issues our nation faces today: the high number of traffic crashes and resulting roadway injuries and deaths.

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Recommendations seek to help communities better withstand --and recover from-- future storms

Yesterday, President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a strategy to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild. The strategy's 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses, and revitalize local economies. Many of the recommendations also serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather.

As the President said, "We have cut red tape, piloted cutting edge programs and strengthened our partnership with state and local officials. While a great amount of work remains, we will stand with the region for as long as it takes to recover."

Photo of transit workers pumping out a New York subway train

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Modern infrastructure is a vital component of a thriving economy. However, re-building America’s highways, railroads and ports would do little good if each individual mode doesn’t successfully integrate and effectively function with the others. A brand new interstate, for example, does little good for moving freight if it can’t service the nearby marine port or inland transshipment rail facility that depends on it.

That’s why it’s exciting to see what can happen when transportation planners get it right – like the new Southwest Regional Intermodal Freight Transportation Hub at America’s Central Port in Granite City, Illinois. This new facility will link six rail lines and four interstate highways to the M-55 and M-70 marine highways to capture and transport cargo from Chicago and other northern regions to the Gulf of Mexico and international markets.

Photo of Chip Jaenichen touring America's Central Port

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Last week in Utah, I had the pleasure of seeing what can happen when communities come together to solve their mutual challenges. The TRAX Light Rail Extension to the City of Draper is the final leg of a seven-year plan that invests in the future of the entire Salt Lake Region.

It is exactly the kind of thinking we need to see in communities across America, and DOT is proud to have played its part.

Poster for Front Lines 2015 by Utah Transit Authority

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I recently blogged about a new fleet of Amtrak locomotives being tested at the Transportation Technology Center, (TTC) in Colorado – today I’m here to tell you how this same center is training first responders to respond to a rail accident involving hazardous materials.

The Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC), housed at TTC, has trained more than 50,000 men and women since it opened in 1985. Today, in addition to serving the transportation industry, SERTC trains the public safety officials from local communities, the chemical industry, government agencies, and emergency response contractors from all over the world.  In fact, there’s nowhere else in the nation where emergency responders can receive such extensive, hands-on, realistic training to prepare for a rail accident involving tank cars carrying hazardous materials. 

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In this era of digital access, knowledge is power. And thanks to a new rule NHTSA issued yesterday, effective one year from now, consumers will have online access to the power they need to make sure their vehicle, or one they are considering buying, is safe.

This new rule requires that major automakers and motorcycle manufacturers provide information on uncompleted vehicle safety recalls online.  This information will be searchable by the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) – free of charge. Consumers will be able to instantly determine whether action is required to address an uncompleted safety recall that affects their personal vehicle, as identified by their unique VIN. Automakers and motorcycle manufacturers will have to update that information at least once a week. NHTSA will also offer the ability to search the industry recall data through our website SaferCar.gov.

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While in Atlanta for the National Conference of State Legislators earlier this week, I had the opportunity to sit down with a talented group of young people to discuss opportunities for careers in transportation. With approximately 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, it's important the next generation is aware and excited about the career possibilities in the transportation industry.

With the need for transportation services always growing, it’s a particularly great time to consider a career in the industry. Fifty percent of the current transportation workforce will be eligible to retire by 2013 – that is double the rate of the overall U.S. workforce.  This means there will be a high demand for transportation operators, from truck drivers and pilots to inspectors and rail workers.

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Every October, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) hosts Drive Safely Work Week, an annual reminder for businesses and organizations to help their employees focus on safe driving.

This year, Drive Safely Work Week will run from October 7 - 11.  But employers can get a jump start on safety today by downloading this year's free campaign toolkit at http://www.trafficsafety.org.

NETS has a long history of success with Drive Safely Work Week, which it has been sponsoring since 1996.  In just the last three years, an average of 3,500 organizations have participated annually, representing 16.5 million employees per year.

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This morning, I was pleased to officially swear in former U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton as the new Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC).  Ms. Sutton brings a wealth of experience from her years of service at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government, and is well versed in the issues of maritime commerce.

As a native of the Great Lakes region, I know that she fully appreciates the importance of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System not only to international commerce and to our national transportation system, but to the economic vitality of the Great Lakes area.

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In May, Nippon Sharyo expanded its railcar assembly plant in Rochelle, Illinois by 330,000 square-feet creating 80 new jobs in the process, on top of the 250 created when the plant opened less than a year earlier. 

These jobs were added to help meet a contract to build 130 new rail cars for California and the Midwest.  And the order was the result of a groundbreaking multi-state effort – with funding through our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program – to jointly purchase standardized rail equipment to be used on state corridors.  Good news for workers in Illinois, and the people who will eventually ride in those cars.

The better news? We’re only getting started.

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