I met some good people yesterday. Yerimi Felipe and Roxana Espino work building rail transit cars at the Kawasaki Plant in Lincoln, Nebraska. That's 1,000 miles from Washington, DC, and it's probably safe to say that no one in Washington knows Yerimi and Roxana. That includes the DC-area commuters who will someday be riding in the new Metro cars built in Lincoln. And that includes the Members of Congress whose decisions on transportation funding in the coming months will have a profound impact on Yerimi, Roxana, and their co-workers in Nebraska.
Yerimi builds some of the railcar doors; Roxana does wiring for communication systems. They're married, with two kids, and they're trying to figure out how to send their son, Kelvin, to college next year. They work hard; they have busy lives. So they don’t necessarily have time to follow everything that’s going on in DC. Nevertheless, Yerimi and Roxana say they trust that Congress will do what's best for the people.
I hope they're right...
Last week, I had the chance to visit Waterbury, Connecticut, and St. Louis, Missouri, where I had the pleasure of announcing two exciting and transformative TIGER grants that will help invigorate these communities.
With the support of TIGER, these projects will help connect people to jobs, schools, and green spaces --and in doing so, improve their quality of life and access to opportunities...
Since Hurricane Sandy, we've made great progress rebuilding critical transit connections. But as we grapple with the impacts of climate change and the potential for stronger storms in the future, we want to make sure no one pays for these repairs twice. So today, DOT announced that 40 projects in areas affected by Sandy have been selected for $3.59 billion in grants to help public transportation systems become stronger and better able to withstand future storms.
Within hours after Sandy hit, men and women from DOT were on the ground –sometimes waist-deep in water– working shoulder-to-shoulder with local teams to assess the damage and to help repair the busiest public transportation network in the United States.
Today, we’ve reached another milestone in that effort. Because we know it’s not enough to recover from the last storm; we have to rebuild to withstand the next one.
When you extend a runway at South Florida's second-busiest airport, it involves a little more than roto-tilling a patch of grass. Building the 8,000-foot long, 17-inch thick South Runway that opened yesterday at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) actually required 12 different tunnels --to accommodate roads as well as railroad tracks-- 535,000 square yards of concrete, and 90 miles of electrical and lighting cable.
When we talk about DOT's TIGER program, we often use the word, "transformative." Because the projects that we have selected for these grants since the program's beginning in 2009 have been projects that make a significant difference to their communities.
And this past weekend in Tulsa, I saw a terrific demonstration of TIGER's transformative power in not one --but two-- grrrrrreat! projects, the I-244 Bridges and the Riverside Drive-Gathering Place Multimodal Access Project...
Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez speaking at ribbon-cutting for I-244 Eastbound Bridge; photos by Stephen Pingry, Tulsa World.
Over the past few days, I've toured some of the projects selected to receive TIGER grants this year, and that includes the TRI-Mississippi Three-County Road Improvements Program. Now, Claiborne, Franklin, and Jefferson are among those counties with the fewest transportation options in America. To get anywhere in these rural counties –to run errands, to go to school, to commute to area employers like Grand Gulf Nuclear– you have to drive. There’s no other option.
Which would be fine. Except, the counties’ roads are crumbling; they flood easily; and their bridges are greatly in need of repair. In fact, 60 area bridges are rated “deficient.”
That’s why, this year, all of us at DOT were so pleased that Claiborne, Franklin, and Jefferson counties developed TRI-Mississippi to fix this problem...
Today, I’m pleased to announce the sixth round of DOT’s TIGER program. We’re making nearly $600 million in grants and awarding them to 72 transportation projects across 46 states and in DC.
Over the last six years, we’ve awarded more than $4 billion in these TIGER grants, but this round of investment is probably the most crucial ever...
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Great Lakes region to help celebrate two new public transportation projects helping people in two states get where they’re going faster and with greater convenience than ever before.
Without federal participation, many projects like the Grand Rapids Silver Line and the Cleveland Cedar-University Rapid Station simply wouldn't get built. That's why the GROW AMERICA proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress last spring includes four years of support for transit projects in communities across the nation...
Regular readers of the Fast Lane blog have probably heard me say that rail travel has never been safer. Accidents caused by faulty track, signal systems or equipment, and human error have decreased nearly 50 percent over the last decade to new record lows. Employee fatalities are down 59 percent over the same period. But one vexing exception to this continuous improvement exists: highway-rail grade crossing and pedestrian trespassing accidents, which together account for approximately 95% of all rail-related fatalities.
The safest crossing is one that doesn’t exist. And recently, I visited two places where our investments are funding capital improvements to eliminate crossings, make communities safer and improve their quality of life.
Last week in North Carolina I saw two of the 26 projects – all supported by our High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail program – that are improving safety and service between Charlotte and Raleigh. Between Lexington and Thomasville, North Carolina, workers are building two new highway bridges that will lift vehicle traffic above the tracks and enable three crossings to close. In Harrisburg, two more crossings, as you can see below, will close thanks to a new 150-foot roadway bridge.
Photo Courtesy of John D. Simmons – Charlotte Observer
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of industry professionals at the Finished Vehicle Logistics Conference, where the theme of the discussion was the import and export of new cars.
I’m sure you’re wondering what vehicle logistics has to do with the Maritime Administration. And that’s a very good question.
My role at this conference highlighted the critical —yet often overlooked— fact that maritime moves America.