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Two recent commuter rail accidents --one in New York and one in California-- are a tragic reminder that drivers need to respect railroad grade crossings. And, as part of its ongoing efforts to improve grade crossing safety, the Federal Railroad Administration has launched a campaign to make sure drivers are getting that message.

FRA's new campaign will improve safety by strengthening enforcement and increasing safety awareness at America's grade crossings.

The first phase calls upon local law enforcement agencies to increase their visibility at grade crossings and issue citations to drivers that violate rules of the road at crossings. Subsequent phases will deploy smarter uses of technology, increase public awareness of grade crossing safety, support improved signage, strengthen partnerships with states and local safety agencies, and call for new rail crossing safety funding...

Photo of Metra grade crossing in Illinois

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In honor of Black History Month, we’re re-publishing Secretary Foxx’s speech from last September at Cass Technical High School in Detroit. The speech is entitled “Transportation and Opportunity For All,” and, in our public affairs staff’s estimation, it’s the best distillation of Secretary Foxx’s views on the intersection of race, class, and transportation. What follows is an excerpt: 
“It is fitting that we should be here at a high school today.  I come from a family of teachers.  My grandparents, both of whom were school teachers, helped raise me.  I grew up in their home on Charlotte's west side – not exactly the right side of the tracks. 
My mother was nineteen when I was born.  My father was absent.  My grandmother never had a driver's license, and on Saturdays, I would ride with her into town to shop on the city bus.  I took the bus to apply for my first job.  I know personally what a lifeline it is for so many people. 
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With America's population expected to grow by 70 million during the next three decades, there is no question that we will have to find ways to get more out of our transportation networks. Figuring out how to do that is one of the key goals of our "Beyond Traffic: Framework for the Future."

And thanks to a two-city pilot program --in San Diego and Dallas-- we know that one useful solution is Integrated Corridor Management or ICM. With ICM, the separate data systems that monitor road congestion, incident reports, pavement conditions, and rail and transit operations are combined into a single, powerful tool.

Beyond Traffic graphic

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It is hard to overstate America’s reliance on a safe and efficient freight network.  This network is the circulation system that fuels our economy health and helps secure our Nation, and the Obama Administration has consistently emphasized the importance of improving our infrastructure.

That is exactly what brought me to Quincy, IL, earlier this month.  With $12 billion in goods transported to global markets each year through Quincy by road, rail, or river, this community is a domestic and international economic hub. 

Because our population will grow by 70 million during the next 30 years --and to support that population our freight volume will have to increase by 45 percent-- community leaders in Quincy are working with DOT's Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC) to develop a port that can support the region’s expected freight growth...

Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen walks the site in Quincy

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Last month here in the Fast Lane, I launched DOT's Mayor's Challenge For Safer People and Safer Streets. Today, I'm pleased to say that 86 communities from across the U.S. have committed to join the Mayors' Challenge and improve safety for bicycle riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities over the next year.

And the good news is, there's still time for more cities to sign up.

The Challenge will showcase local practices to improve safety, share tools for local leaders to take action, and promote partnerships to advance pedestrian and bicycle safety. Mayors, other elected officials, and team leaders from registered cities will attend a summit in March then return to their communities to start taking action in seven different challenge areas...

Map of U.S. showing cities registered for Mayors' Challenge

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America’s rail transit systems already offer one of the safest ways to travel about your local community, and we at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are working to make public transportation by rail even safer.

That's why, last Friday, Secretary Foxx announced a new proposed rule that will improve, modernize and transform rail transit safety oversight to help ensure the increased level of safety expected by the millions of passengers who use rail transit every day.

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Last Friday afternoon, our GROW AMERICA Express bus tour pulled into Washington, DC's, Union Station after a 1,100-mile journey through five states. We had gone on the road four days earlier for one reason: to encourage Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill.

In Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and DC, I saw great examples of the kind of investment in transportation infrastructure that can help communities grow, help businesses compete, and help people get more safely and reliably to jobs and other opportunities.

We also visited places where strong projects that would achieve those same goals were stuck perpetually on the launch pad.

Secretary Foxx amid crowd of stakeholders at DC's Union Station
Many thanks to everyone who turned out to welcome us back to DC!
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This morning, the GROW AMERICA Express pulled into Virginia’s Richmond International Airport, where we made two big safety announcements. These steps forward on safety highlight the ways that government, consumer advocates, and businesses can work together.

At the airport, I was joined by Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, by safety advocate Rosemary Shahan, and by representatives of the rental car industry to talk about how we can keep vehicles with safety defects off our highways.

As Fast Lane readers know, industry and safety advocates don't always agree, but these folks have come together on a common-sense proposition: rental car agencies should not be able to rent a vehicle that is under a safety recall until any safety defects have been repaired...

Secretary Foxx at Richmond International Airport

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This afternoon I visited Durham, North Carolina, where I got an up-close view of the powerful effect that transportation investment can have on people’s lives.

While planning progresses on the rail line, the downtown Durham area is already undergoing a renaissance. New businesses are sprouting up; existing businesses are moving to the area; and new restaurants are opening. This is all well in advance of the light rail line’s opening, projected to be in 2026.

Getting to opening day, however, will take continued financial support. Durham and Chapel Hill as well as countless other communities across the country need to be able to commit to multi-year transportation projects, but they need federal funding in addition to local funding commitments to do that...

Secretary Foxx speaking in Durham

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When you're making the case for stable investment in American passenger rail, it helps to have with you the nation's greatest champion for passenger rail --Vice President Joe Biden.

The Vice President and I have been traveling up the East Coast this week as part of the GROW AMERICA Express to focus America’s attention on our infrastructure, and to remind the American people that we are at a crucial crossroads. And as we consider our options for moving forward, Vice President Biden knows well that passenger rail is an important piece of the transportation puzzle...

Vice President Biden and Secretary Foxx talk infrastructure outside in front of a train
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