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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).

Graphic of elves working on rocket launch

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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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For the first time in half a century, streetcars have returned to Salt Lake City’s historic Sugar House neighborhood.

Even before the new S-Line began operating last week, the project had already done wonders for the city’s bottom line—jump-starting roughly $400 million in economic development that’s completed or underway, including hundreds of new apartments. That’s what transit-oriented development is all about: bringing access to housing, transit, and jobs together in a way that makes sense for how families, young professionals, seniors, and others want to live today.

Poster from Utah Transit featuring S-line streetcar

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It's no secret that seat belts save lives. They save lives in passenger vehicles, and they save lives in large trucks. But they can only save lives when drivers and passengers buckle up.

To educate kids about the importance of seat belts and to urge America's commercial drivers to buckle up on every trip, our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is holding its annual "Be Ready. Be Buckled." safety belt art contest. It's one of the highlights of the DOT safety calendar, and we urge you to share the news with young poster artists and safety advocates.

Caleb Zhao's grand prize winning poster
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Last year, for the first time in 55 years, Louisville, Kentucky's "Appliance Park" began running a new assembly line. Refrigerators and washing machines started leaving the loading docks again, and workers' cars started showing up in the parking lot.

Louisville isn’t the only place this is happening. This is just one chapter in larger success story chronicling the recent resurgence of American manufacturing.

At DOT, we’re thinking about the next chapter of this manufacturing renaissance: about how those fridges and washing machines get from the loading dock to American stores and global markets, and about how those workers get home at the end of their shifts...

Photo of workers at G.E.'s Appliance Park

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If you were among the more than 2 million people injured in a vehicle crash last year, you likely have a special appreciation for the brave men and women who work in Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Every day, in every community, courageous EMS professionals play an essential role in roadway safety by rushing into often dangerous situations in order to provide care and save lives. They are often underappreciated, but they serve an essential role in roadway safety.

That’s why DOT and NHTSA have long been partners and supporters of America's EMS professionals.

Photo of EMS responders on the scene of a night-time crash

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Last week, DOT’s Maritime Administration released the first of a comprehensive, multi-phase study forecasting the impact that the Panama Canal expansion will have on U.S. ports and our overall transportation system.

A key aspect to the study is an evaluation of our ports’ general “readiness” to handle the increased traffic that the widened canal will bring, both in cargo volume and vessel size.

For decades, the size of the Panama Canal has been a constraint on the maritime industry, which has been building ships that significantly exceed the canal's navigable dimensions, limiting direct international trade options, most especially for East and Gulf Coast ports of the United States.

Photograph of a container ship at Port of Baltimore   

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Excavation damage is a leading cause of serious pipeline incidents, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Our State Damage Prevention grants, which are now open for applications, foster strong state programs that work to eliminate these accidents entirely through education, technology, enforcement, and by coordinating communications between pipeline operators and excavators.

At PHMSA, we work to oversee a nationwide network of pipelines, but excavation happens at a local level. These grants support state efforts to create programs that can address each state’s unique needs. In short, these state programs account for that last mile in getting information about pipeline safety to the people who need it.

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Sometimes, it's good to close the book on one tradition and open the book on another.  Particularly when we're saying goodbye to a tradition of excessive fumes and round-the-clock noise, and welcoming a new tradition of good environmental stewardship and being a better neighbor.

That's exactly what we're helping the families of Baltimore's Midway neighborhood do by supporting construction of a new bus maintenance facility to replace the Kirk Avenue depot.

Photo of Deputy Secretary Porcari in construction machine

Last week, residents living near the existing depot turned out to witness a new beginning. Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff and I --along with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, and Maryland Transportation Secretary James Smith-- joined them to break ground on a new facility made possible by a $45 million commitment from the Obama Administration.

The fact that so many residents were present is a strong indication of what this project means for their community.

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Photo of DOT CIO Richard McKinneyIn addition to Small Business Saturday, November 30 was also a critical deadline for DOT to reach some of the milestones in President Obama's Executive Order on Open Data. I'm happy to say that this Department has met its obligations.

But, more than just meeting our requirements, opening our data is about unleashing the power of information for public use.

The Federal Government collects and creates a vast amount of statistical, economic, financial, geospatial, regulatory, and scientific data, but much of it remains in unusable formats or trapped in government systems where it can't be accessed by the public.  Even when it was technically available online, it could be hard to find...and even harder to use.

Over the past few years, the Obama Administration has launched a series of Open Data initiatives, which, for the first time in history, have released valuable data sets that were previously hard to access in areas such as safety, energy, and transportation.

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