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The U.S. Department of Transportation’s more than 55,000 employees know that transportation is a vital economic engine, and they come to work every day on a mission to make transportation as safe and efficient as possible. That's why we're committed to making DOT one of the best places to work in the federal government.

And it's why we're happy to learn that, in the 2013 rankings of Best Places to Work released today, the Department is ranked as the 8th best among large federal agencies. This is up one notch from 2012 and marks the continued success of a deliberate turnaround underway since ranking last in the 2009 survey.

We're also happy to report that the Surface Transportation Bureau once again ranked 1st among small agencies, and the Federal Highway Administration ranked as the 5th best place to work among subcomponent agencies...

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This is traditionally a season for giving, for selflessness.  And I can’t think of anything more antithetical to that spirit--anything more selfish--than drinking, getting behind the wheel, and risking not just your own life, but the lives of others.

Photo of a police car with siren lit and the text "It's hard to have a happy holiday when you're arrested for drunk driving."

Yet every December and January, after Christmas celebrations and New Year’s parties, people still do exactly that. And they do it in greater numbers than at any other time of year.  In fact, every 54 minutes during the holiday season, drunk driving claims another life.

That’s why today, I joined National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland to remind people that if they do decide to drink and drive, the red lights they see in their rear-view mirror won’t be Santa’s sleigh. They’ll be a police car.

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Each year, DOT and the Federal Aviation Administration sponsor the Secretary's RAISE Award (Recognizing Aviation and Aerospace Innovation in Science and Engineering) to encourage high school, college and university students to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to aviation challenges.

Photo of two airliners landing on parallel runways

The ability to move people and cargo safely and efficiently from coast to coast and everywhere in between means that America's aviation system not only contributes directly to our economy; it also helps the nation's non-aviation businesses compete economically. If we want our aviation system--and our economy--to remain competitive, we must aim high and innovate. And that means we need students who are trained in science, technology, engineering, and math.

This year's RAISE Award winner, Kyle Smith, and the collision avoidance system he proposed are exactly what American aviation needs to continue raising the bar worldwide.

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Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration  announced a 60-day, comprehensive safety assessment of Metro-North Commuter Railroad in response to the December 1st crash.

Operation Deep Dive will deploy a team of DOT rail safety experts to exhaustively review Metro-North’s compliance with federal regulations, its procedures and practices, and its safety culture.

Photo of Metro-North train at station

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Every day in America, a tremendous number of people travel by motorcoach.  In fact, fifteen percent more trips are taken on motorcoaches than on airplanes. 

That's why we're on the front lines of motorcoach safety.  This week we announced the results of an unprecedented eight-month push called “Operation Quick Strike” to shut down unsafe motorcoach companies. 

The outcome?  Fifty-two bus companies and 340 buses put out of service and removed from the road.

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Yesterday, we honored the individual and team achievements of the hardworking professionals of DOT with our 46th annual Secretary's Awards. It was truly a celebration.

But among all of the terrific personnel we celebrated, we had the opportunity to single out one of our family for special distinction: Deputy Secretary John Porcari...

Photo of 46th annual Secretary's Awards at D.O.T.

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Here at the Department of Transportation, a critical part of our mission is to improve our transportation system and help grow our national economy. For the Maritime Administration (MARAD), that means using all of the resources we have available to develop our nation’s ports.

It might surprise you to know these resources include assets other than grant funding, but a couple of weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to participate in the official land transfer of the Poland Street Wharf to the Port of New Orleans.

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Help is on the way in one of Southern California’s most congested corridors, thanks to the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) $75 million commitment to extend the Metrolink commuter rail system 24 miles from Riverside to Perris.

I was delighted to be in Perris earlier this week with U.S. Representatives Ken Calvert and Mark Takano, and Perris City Mayor Daryl Busch to celebrate an agreement that provides funding through FTA’s highly competitive Capital Investment Grant Program, known as New Starts / Small Starts.

Photo of Metrolink train

This Small Starts investment, which will pay for roughly a third of the project --with an additional $63 million in other U.S. Department of Transportation funds also provided-- will give working families the option of a faster, more convenient commute and enhance access to jobs for those needing reliable, affordable transportation...

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While winter weather continues to disrupt work, school, and travel in many parts of the country, the busy folks at the North Pole are taking it in stride. Whether it's readying the launch of three navigation satellites for Santa's annual circumnavigation or hosting the arrival of thousands of children via United Airlines Fantasy Flights, December is the month they prepare for all year.

And it looks like they've outdone themselves once again.

On December 3, the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation granted launch licenses for three rockets carrying Santa's private navigation satellites. The satellites --Rudolph 1, 2, and 3-- will launch from the FAA-licensed Kodiak Launch Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska. In orbit, they will form the Evolved Location Flight System (ELFS) constellation and track Santa's location at any given time. A transmitter will send Santa's location to Mrs. Claus at the North Pole Mission Operations Center (NPMOC).

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Four decades ago, when Lyndon Johnson signed the order to create the Department of Transportation, it read, “The Secretary should give top priority to the safety of our people as they travel by land, sea, or air.”

Today, that statement remains truer than ever – especially when it comes to distracted driving.

Poster from Put It Down campaign

Just as distracted driving was a priority under Secretary LaHood, it will receive my full efforts, as well...

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