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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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Today we announced $2.1 billion in federal support to help build the 3.9-mile Westside Purple Line Extension from downtown Los Angeles to the City of Beverly Hills, expanding transit options in one of the most congested corridors in Los Angeles County.

Map of proposed Purple Line Extension in L.A. County

In December of last year, Los Angeles County hit a demographic milestone, becoming the first county in America with more than 10 million people. L.A. County actually has more people than 43 of our States, and if it were its own country, it would be the 88th most populous nation in the world.

Imagine the challenge of moving those 10 million people to and from work, school, and other places every day, and suddenly it's no surprise that a region famous for so many good things is also famous for its traffic jams. That's what makes the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) such a critical part of the region. It's also what has led LACMTA to extend its existing transit lines...

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Yesterday, I visited two long-awaited projects in Florida, stopping first in Miami. That's where, last May, a giant drill named Harriet bored its way under the bay and broke through on Watson Island and the Port of Miami.

The Port’s new tunnels certainly are good for the city. The port moves thousands of containers every day, and one-in-five North American cruise passengers pass through there. Yet, before yesterday, the 16,000 vehicles traveling to the port each day only had one access point, so traffic backed up all the way to downtown.

The tunnels that opened yesterday will help help solve that problem, and their construction employed more than 500 people.

Photo of Secretary Foxx at opening of Port of Miami tunnels; courtesy Miami Herald
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According to Forbes Magazine, Austin is the fastest growing city in America this year. But with all that growth can come some growing pains. And one example of those pains can be seen on US 290, east of downtown Austin, where traffic has increased more than 78 percent since 1990.

And that has left folks stuck in congestion--every day. Luckily, things are looking up for local residents with the opening of the new Manor Expressway –a 6.2 mile limited-access toll road that is tripling the capacity of US 290 between US 183 and SH 130.

The benefits of this project can’t be overstated. It will improve safety for drivers. It will reduce congestion –and vehicle emissions.  And it will make transportation more efficient in Austin – creating jobs, increasing business opportunities, and improving quality of life.

Rendering of Manor Expressway

I visited Austin on Saturday morning to celebrate the opening of the new Manor Expressway –a 6.2 mile limited-access toll road that is tripling the capacity of US 290 between US 183 and SH 130.

The benefits of this project can’t be understated. It will improve safety for drivers. It will reduce congestion –and vehicle emissions.  And it will make transportation more efficient in Austin – creating jobs, increasing business opportunities, and improving quality of life.

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At this Department, our top priority is ensuring the safety of the traveling public. It always has been.  

Achieving that goal isn’t easy. It takes commitment from everyone with a stake in our transportation system. And we know no one is perfect. But what we cannot tolerate –what we will never accept– is a person or a company that knows danger exists, and says nothing.

Because silence can kill.

Photo of Secretary Foxx and N.H.T.S.A. Acting Administrator Friedman announcing G.M. penalties

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This morning, I was not about to let a little weather keep me from greeting the bicyclists who braved the rain on my first Bike To Work Day since becoming Transportation Secretary!

So I headed to Freedom Plaza, and was amazed to see that bike commuters were really coming out for this event despite the downpour. That's a tribute to their love of commuting by bicycle and also to the growing significance of Bike To Work Day as an annual celebration of bicycling as transportation.

Photo of Secretary Foxx at Bike To Work Day event
Photos courtesy Matt Kroneberger, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

And it is something worth celebrating. In fact, over the last decade, commuting by bicycle is up more than 60 percent...

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The deadline for submitting Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2014 grant applications recently passed, and--once again--the applications totaled far more than Congress set aside for these competitive awards. And, I'm not talking about a small difference.

DOT received $9.5 billion in applications for the $600 million available in our TIGER program--that's more than 15 times the amount we can award. The 797 eligible applications we received from 49 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia is also a big jump from the 585 submitted during last year's TIGER process.

These applicants confirm what I saw as I traveled through eight states and 13 cities as part of my Invest in America, Commit to the Future bus tour last month: America is hungry for infrastructure investment. And that's exactly why we sent our GROW AMERICA legislative proposal to Congress two weeks ago.

Photo of rail work near St. Paul's Union Depot

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This afternoon, I had the great privilege of joining President Obama at theTappan Zee bridge, where work is underway to replace this nearly 60-year-old bridge with a new one, appropriately called the New NY Bridge. There, the President demonstrated his ongoing commitment to making 2014 a year of action by releasing a comprehensive plan to further accelerate project delivery by expanding his permitting reform efforts.

Fast Lane readers might recall that federal agencies completed the permitting and review for the New NY Bridge--a process that can take as long as 5 years--in about 1.5 years. So, it's a terrific example of how we can meet the Administration's goal of cutting timelines for major projects in half--and in this case even more than that.

Photo of President Obama at Tappan Zee Bridges
Photo courtesy Peter Carr, The Journal News

Today, more commuters and commercial vehicles use this bridge than ever before – more than 138,000 vehicles a day--that's a 30 percent jump in traffic from 1990.  We know that for them, every day counts until they get a new bridge....

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It's quite a week for the transportation world. In addition to National Transportation Week and Infrastructure Week, last Saturday, at stations across the country, passenger rail fans across the country celebrated the 7th annual National Train Day, an opportunity to appreciate a mode of transportation that makes a real difference to many towns, communities, and people from coast to coast.

National Train Day banner image

Passenger train ridership has increased more than 50% since 2000. In fact, Amtrak has now set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years. As Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo told the National Train Day crowd at Portland Oregon's Union Station, "Travelers today have choices –and they're choosing trains in record numbers."

Not that long ago, in regional markets like Portland-Seattle and New York-Washington, DC, inter-city travelers chose air over rail. But today those numbers are reversed. In 2012, 69 percent of travelers between Portland and Seattle chose rail. And between New York and Washington, Amtrak now carries three times as many passengers as all the airlines put together...

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