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Every life lost on America’s highways is a tragedy that causes immeasurable pain to the families and loved ones of the person who died. Our work at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)—making vehicles and drivers safer—is about sparing Americans such terrible heartache.

Fatalities and injuries aren’t the only costs involved in vehicle crashes; there are also enormous economic and societal costs to take into account.

According to a study we released last week, The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010, motor vehicle crashes cost Americans $871 billion in economic loss and harm every year. This includes $277 billion in economic costs –that’s nearly $900 for each person living in the United States based on calendar year 2010 data– and $594 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries...

Photo of child on stretcher after crash

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I was honored to join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the White House today to announce Local Foods, Local Places, an Obama Administration initiative to help communities improve access to fresh, local produce--particularly among disadvantaged groups who lack such access. Investing in regional food economies is an investment in rural America, and DOT couldn't be prouder to take part.

Farmers are some the most self-reliant, self-sufficient people I’ve met in this country. But for all that farmers and farm communities can do on their own –and they can do a lot– we also know there are challenges that require more help. And one of those challenges is making sure that farms have access to good transportation.

Photo of rural road and farm

As JFK explained the economic challenges that rural communities face, saying that, “the farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”  

Although JFK said it 54 years ago, it’s still true: freight is a huge concern for rural communities. Transportation determines whether the crop gets to market, and the cost of transportation often determines whether it’s profitable there.

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As more Americans commute without a car, the Department of Transportation is working hard to help get them where they need to go. For most transit commuters, bus or rail make the most sense, but in many communities, ferry service plays an important role. And larger ferries, capable of carrying vehicles, can even help folks who drive get across waterways to their destination.

That's why Congress authorized the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) MAP-21 Passenger Ferry Grant Program and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Ferry Boat and Ferry Terminals Facilities Program. And last week, the FTA and FHWA announced the award and distribution of approximately $123.5 million for passenger ferry projects and ferry operators across the country.

But if our surface transportation funding expires or the Highway Trust Fund runs out, America's ferries could be left high and dry. That's why, as Secretary Foxx said, “We need Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill so we can continue to invest in ferry boat services that provide ladders of opportunity for hard-working families.”

Photo of Puget Sound ferry

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Hurricanes and tropical storms present serious threats to life and property. They can also cause wide-spread disruptions to transportation services.

Every year around the start of hurricane season, employees at airports and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facilities across the nation review and update contingency plans, evacuation routes, and safety procedures to prepare for severe weather. We can’t predict how a hurricane or tropical storm will affect the status of airports and facilities, but we can minimize disruptions by preparing in advance.

When it comes to our national airspace system, the FAA’s goal is to restore operations as soon as the weather allows, while always keeping safety at the forefront of our efforts...

Photo of two men restoring airfield assets at Will Rogers Airport

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When those who served our nation return home, we owe them a fair shake along with our gratitude. Events like yesterday’s Military 2 Maritime information and recruiting session, hosted by the American Maritime Partnership in Jacksonville, Florida, help steer our veterans toward the opportunities available in the maritime industry.

We at the Maritime Administration (MARAD) are proud to be associated with an industry that doesn't just open its doors to America's veterans, but actively helps them navigate the transition to civilian careers. Through licensing and certification information, support for maritime academies, and our work with stakeholders, MARAD is actively engaged in making this transition easier...

Photo of Military 2 Maritime event with speakers

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Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Siemens Rail Automation plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and seeing first-hand how investments in rail infrastructure are creating jobs and improving safety.

At the plant in Louisville, there are 26 new, good-paying jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and assembling train control systems and Positive Train Control (PTC) components. Nationwide, Siemens has added nearly 100 new jobs –including highly sought after engineers, analysts, and other skilled manufacturing employees.

Photo of PATH rack demonstration at Siemens
Troy Martin, Plant Manager, FRA Administrator Szabo, and Kevin Riddett, CEO Siemens Freight & Products, Rail Automation. Photos courtesy Siemens.

PTC is the backbone of the next generation of rail safety, and these employees--as well as others like them--are at the forefront of developing this sophisticated technology that can avert accidents and save lives by slowing or stopping a train...

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Improving safety and saving lives is at the heart of our mission at DOT. That's why we are committed to keeping tired truckers off the road--for their safety and the safety of others--through common sense rules backed by science, research, and data.

In 2012, thanks to our continued economic recovery and increased demand for freight shipping, there were nearly 10.7 million tractor-trailers and large trucks on the roads in the U.S., with the trucking industry experiencing unprecedented profitability this year.

But that demand has come with a price. Since 2009, we've seen an 18 percent increase in large truck crash fatalities. To put that in perspective, in one year alone, large trucks were involved in 317,000 traffic crashes resulting in an average of 75 deaths per week. That's 11 per day...

Photo collage of families torn apart by truck crashes

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In February, Secretary Foxx launched DOT's Data Innovation Challenge, a three-month quest to see what app developers could do to improve transportation by taking advantage of new access to multiple sources of transportation data. Today, I'm happy to announce the results of our challenge. While we had numerous submissions, we narrowed the field down to three final winners.

  • RideScout -- a mobile app that provides available transportation options in real time including transit, taxi, car share, bike share, parking, and walking directions; and
  • Choices & Voices -- a web-based, long range planning tool that educates users on the linkages between land use and transportation, the cost of maintenance, and the consequences of not investing in transportation.
  • FAST Dashboard -- a congestion analytics dashboard that provides an easy-to-understand online user interface allowing the public and transportation professionals access to real-time and historical freeway monitoring and performance data...
Photo of Secretary Foxx with Data Challenge winners at White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Secretary Foxx with Data Challenge winners at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Photo courtesy USDOT, Larry Simmons.
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It's no secret to Fast Lane readers that the GROW AMERICA proposal I sent to Congress earlier this spring has a number of elements that will improve the way our transportation system helps people and freight get where they need to go safely and efficiently. I'm also happy to share that GROW AMERICA has a number of features that would improve the environmental sustainability of American transportation.

This makes GROW AMERICA a very good fit with the Obama Administration's significant ongoing efforts to #ActOnClimate--including last week's report, “An All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth,” and yesterday's proposed rulemaking to cut carbon pollution from power plants.

The GROW AMERICA Act protects the environment, helps cut carbon pollution by increasing the efficiency of the transportation system and encourages transportation choices that ease congestion on our highways and improves the quality of life in our communities...

Photo of California road congestion

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In 2009, we made a special commitment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), that we would take the steps needed to restore the Academy in Kings Point, NY, to its rightful place as a jewel among the nation’s service academies. And last Friday, we celebrated one of the results of that commitment--a newly reconstructed Mallory Pier.

If we are going to ask our USMMA graduates to serve their country with distinction, it's only appropriate that we should provide them the tools and resources to prepare them for that effort. America deserves first-rate mariners, and Kings Point attracts first-rate students who give a hundred and ten percent every day. They deserve first-rate facilities to prepare them for service, including a modern waterfront.

With the 2012 addition of a state-of-the-art training vessel, the T/V Kings Pointer, and now a new Mallory Pier, DOT has made that waterfront a reality...

Photo of Victor Mendez with Midshipman Erin Hofstetter, First Class and Rear Admiral James Helis.
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