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For five and half years, one of the best parts of my job has been meeting with mayors and people at the local level working hard to get things done.  To leaders like the National League of Cities members I met with this week, transportation comes down to improving quality of life.

I used to be a mayor myself. I served in Riverdale, Illinois, the first outer-ring suburb on the southern edge of Chicago.

Riverdale is a railroad town.  It has two major rail yards, five railroads that run through it, and two commuter rail stations.  So I understand how community leaders are eager to have safe, reliable, efficient rail connections but also the necessary tools to address challenges like blocked crossings or train horn noise.  Above all, they want to know that their communities are safe –and so do we...

Photo of rail yard

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Almost exactly a year ago, Transportation Secretary Foxx addressed the National League of Cities. He then turned to the Fast Lane to blog about what it means to city leaders that drivers in their cities spend an average of 42 hours a year stuck in traffic and how an increasing population is only going to make matters worse unless we invest in infrastructure solutions.

For today's installment of Throwback Thursday, we re-publish the Secretary's blog post and remind readers that, for more than a year, he and President Obama have proposed concrete solutions --through GROW AMERICA, our four-year, $302 bllion legislative proposal-- and advocated tirelessly for revitalized American transportation and the jobs and economic growth that reviatlization would bring.

With a newly elected Congress heading toward Washington, we also re-publish in this post the Secretary's advice that, "It is only when we work together that we can go from gridlock to open road, open harbors, and open skies."

date widgetWorking together, investing in American transportation

Yesterday, I addressed the members of the National League of Cities, and it was a pleasure to be among leaders who understand the value of investing in America's transportation. Because League members know that, last year, drivers in this country's cities spent an average of 42 hours stuck in traffic. That's more than a full-time week of work.

Photo of a congested suburban road

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In Jacksonville, Florida –one of our cities hardest hit by the recession– the jobs are beginning to come back, and so are the people to fill them. From 2012 to 2013, the metro area’s population grew at a rate that was nearly twice the national average.

Now, while this is good news, it also presents a challenge: How do you move an increasingly larger population around a city with a limited number of streets?

Today in Jacksonville, drivers are experiencing more and more traffic congestion. The more than 40,000 people who ride the region's buses are experiencing their share of delays, too.  And for some transit-dependent folks, good connections to the jobs downtown just aren’t available.

Even in the best of times, solving a challenge like this is difficult. But as things stand now in the world of transportation funding, it's even harder...

Photo of First Coast Flyer prototype vehicle

Continue Reading Jacksonville gets to work ››
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U.S global competitiveness depends on America’s seaports. As President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Foxx take the necessary steps to designate, invest in and build a long overdue national freight network, our nation’s seaports must play a critical role.

Ports are the gateways to our regional and national economies. Last year alone, 1.26 billion metric tons of international cargo, worth about $1.75 trillion, moved through America’s seaports, together with about 800 million metric tons of domestic cargo. Our port-related infrastructure connects American farmers, manufacturers and consumers to the world marketplace and are facilitating the increase of American exports that are essential to our sustained economic growth.

In total, that port activity is responsible for more than 13 million jobs and over $200 million in federal, state and local revenue. Efficient freight movement is a crucial component of every state economy, and to the pocketbooks of every American...

Photo of containership and port

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Even before the events of September 11 destroyed parts of New York City's downtown transit lines, navigating Lower Manhattan's many subway routes presented riders with something of a challenge. Now, more than a decade later, the new Fulton Center repairs the damage from 9/11, makes order out of the nine-line chaos, and sets a new standard for transit centers.

At the Federal Transit Administration, we’re proud of our nearly $3 billion investment to help make the Fulton Center a reality.

This state-of-the-art facility is a tremendous testament to New Yorkers’ commitment to keep their city –and the transit system that is its lifeblood— moving forward in the 21st century...

Photo of Fulton Center opening ceremony

Continue Reading Fulton Center transit ››
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This past weekend --with a grant agreement in Oakland on Saturday and a groundbreaking in Los Angeles a day earlier-- California's transit riders enjoyed an opportunity to see two stages in the life-cycle of public transportation projects. Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan helped celebrate both occasions, an apt demonstration of how our FTA supports good transit options from planning to construction.

Photo of Purple Line extension groundbreaking

On Friday, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) broke ground on Section 1 of its Westside Purple Line extension, the first of three planned extensions for the subway line. The Section 1 extension is expected to improve capacity and travel times from Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Union Station, and other communities. The extension will improve travel through one of the region's most congested areas and give more people access to jobs, schools, and other services. The project includes three new underground stations and the purchase of 34 new vehicles, stimulating an American supply chain that extends far beyond California. In addition, LACMTA estimates that construction will create more than 22,000 jobs.

A few hundred miles north, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) is planning to add a dedicated bus line between Oakland and San Leandro. And on Saturday, Acting Administrator McMillan signed a grant agreement to help move the 9.5-mile East Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project from plan to reality. The proposed BRT line will have a dedicated travel lane for buses, level boarding, pre-payment kiosks, and improved safety features. Most importantly, it will speed up travel times for an estimated 125,000 people each day...

Continue Reading Good weekend for California ››
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If you’re like most people, the global supply chain isn’t exactly must-see TV. You’ve heard about it, and you know it plays a role in your life, but it’s kind of abstract. So let’s talk about something you can feel: that smartphone in your pocket or purse.

It’s safe to say that most of us have smartphones, but we don’t often consider the logistics that go into their creation.

The phone I carry was designed in Canada and manufactured in China. It contains glass from the Dow Corning Plant in my home state of Kentucky, software written in South Carolina, a processor from South Korea, a semiconductor from Germany, flash memory from Japan, and rare earth elements from India, Brazil and South Africa.

Cruising across oceans in containerships and crossing countries and borders in trucks and trains, the world’s raw materials head to factories, and finished goods head to stores –and eventually into consumers’ hands. It is a complex system that makes this possible.

Photo of laden container ship

And America’s transportation infrastructure is our ticket into this system...

Continue Reading GROWing U.S. Contributions ››
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Public transportation can be a real lifeline. And nowhere is that more apparent than in America’s rural communities. Great distances between homes, workplaces, schools, and vital services --plus the aging of the U.S. population-- present rural residents and the transit agencies that serve them with significant challenges.

Since 1985, the Federal Transit Administration has recognized great work in rural transit by presenting Administrator’s Awards for Outstanding Public Transportation Service in Rural Public Transportation. Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting this year’s awards to five very deserving rural transit systems from across the country. By enhancing mobility and increasing access to employment, these unsung heroes of transportation have done an exceptional job of connecting rural residents to ladders of opportunity...

Photo of NCRTD bus

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In both Normal, Illinois, and St. Paul, Minnesota, USDOT stimulus grants for multimodal transportation facilities are still creating good construction jobs and revitalizing urban neighborhoods. The success of these modest, one-time investments suggests that a more robust federal commitment to transportation—such as that envisioned in the GROW America Act—could be strengthening local economies everywhere.

That’s the takeaway from two recent studies by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan group based in Washington, DC, that promotes smart growth for working families. These studies are online at www.goodjobsfirst.org.

The studies detail the job-creation benefits of the new Uptown Station in Normal and the restoration of the St. Paul Union Depot. Both projects were financed in part by Transportation Infrastructure Generating Employment Recovery (TIGER) grants, a part of the federal stimulus that has since been continued and would be expanded under the GROW America Act...

Photo of construction work for Uptown Station
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Remember when the Highway Trust Fund was running out of money, and state departments of transportation warned they’d have to cancel projects? That was a dark hour for America. But some thought that when Congress passed a ten-month funding patch in August, the worst was over.

It wasn’t over. Not even close. 

The Tennessee DOT is delaying $400 million in road projects. It turns out, the patch Congress passed didn’t end the uncertainty over transportation funding; it perpetuated it. As TDOT Commissioner John Shroer wrote in a letter to state legislators last Friday, "The instability in the flow of these dollars is certainly having an impact in Tennessee."

At USDOT, we knew this would happen. We said this would happen.

And now we’re seeing the terrible – and very predictable – outcome. 

Letter from TDOT to Tennessee state legislators

Continue Reading Not hiring: A Tennessee ››
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