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The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is quite a moment. A moment to reflect on what it took for those men and women to come together. A moment to think of where we are today.

Today, we honor so many who achieved so much, demanding fairness and equality in the face of hardship, discrimination, and violence. 

As Secretary of Transportation, I can’t help but think of the historic connection between transportation and the civil rights movement. Literally or figuratively, transportation has played a role throughout the history of our nation’s progress toward civil rights. And it still does.

Photo of Rosa Parks seated on a bus

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Strike Force inspections protect passengers and the motoring public from coast to coast

Federal, state and local commercial vehicle inspectors across the country have begun an intensified safety crack-down to protect bus passengers and the motoring public by removing unsafe vehicles and drivers from our nation’s highways and roads. Over the course of the next two weeks--in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories--specially trained investigators will inspect motorcoaches, buses, and 9-to-15-passenger vans for overall vehicle maintenance and safety equipment condition.

Inspectors will also verify commercial driver qualifications and driver compliance with federal hours-of-service requirements. Vehicles and drivers found to be violating critical safety regulations—and thereby needlessly endangering passengers and other motorists sharing the road with them--will be put out-of-service on the spot.

Photo of investigator inspecting motorcoach wheels

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has been working on our strategic plan for FY 2014 to FY 2018 since early this spring.  Developing and implementing our strategic plan is an important step in helping the Department address key priorities that represent the diverse interests of our stakeholders across the country.

So we want to ensure that all of our stakeholders have an opportunity to read the plan and weigh in. And that means you. For the next few weeks, you can review the plan and submit your ideas and comments at the DOT Strategic Plan Online Dialogue.

Screen capture of the DOT Strategic Plan Online Dialogue website

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In 2011, people drove more than 84.7 billion miles on California interstate highways. That's more than 900 times the distance from Earth to the Sun, and it makes the Golden State's highways the nation's busiest. Overall, our nation's interstate highways saw vehicles traveling 2.95 trillion miles in 2011. That's nearly double the number of highway miles traveled in 1980.

You can find these data and more in the Federal Highway Administration's “U.S. Interstate Traffic Volume Analysis.” In addition to State totals, the report released last week also shows vehicle miles traveled on individual highways. America's busiest interstate? Not surprisingly, it's California's I-5, which saw drivers rack up 21.4 billion miles in 2011. In fact, the nation's next two busiest highway segments are also in California--the I-10 and I-110--and the Los Angeles section of I-405 leads the way among city highways.

Blue-washed photo of a busy California highway

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Nearly 10,000 people are dying each year.

That’s 27 people a day.

One person every 53 minutes.

What’s killing so many Americans?  It’s a choice. A choice made by someone who drank too much and got behind the wheel. 

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In Texas, they built it faster

We’ve all been there before: on our way to the airport for a business trip or a vacation or to drop off a loved one, and as we get closer, the traffic gets worse, and our anxiety rises as the clock continues to tick towards take-off time.  Well today, I was proud to be in Dallas to celebrate the opening of the DFW Connector, a major transportation project that will ease congestion for residents and visitors in and around Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. 

The Connector is a prime example of a transportation project that creates jobs and has a positive impact on the quality of life for people.  It’s why we provided $260 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for this effort, making it our largest ARRA highway investment.

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Transportation Research Board’s (TRB) National Roadway Safety Culture Summit here in Washington, D.C. 

The session focused on the need to develop national safety culture, an environment that encourages people to make decisions that make our roadways safer.  This safety culture will help us combat one of the most challenging public health issues our nation faces today: the high number of traffic crashes and resulting roadway injuries and deaths.

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Recommendations seek to help communities better withstand --and recover from-- future storms

Yesterday, President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a strategy to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild. The strategy's 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses, and revitalize local economies. Many of the recommendations also serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather.

As the President said, "We have cut red tape, piloted cutting edge programs and strengthened our partnership with state and local officials. While a great amount of work remains, we will stand with the region for as long as it takes to recover."

Photo of transit workers pumping out a New York subway train

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Modern infrastructure is a vital component of a thriving economy. However, re-building America’s highways, railroads and ports would do little good if each individual mode doesn’t successfully integrate and effectively function with the others. A brand new interstate, for example, does little good for moving freight if it can’t service the nearby marine port or inland transshipment rail facility that depends on it.

That’s why it’s exciting to see what can happen when transportation planners get it right – like the new Southwest Regional Intermodal Freight Transportation Hub at America’s Central Port in Granite City, Illinois. This new facility will link six rail lines and four interstate highways to the M-55 and M-70 marine highways to capture and transport cargo from Chicago and other northern regions to the Gulf of Mexico and international markets.

Photo of Chip Jaenichen touring America's Central Port

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Last week in Utah, I had the pleasure of seeing what can happen when communities come together to solve their mutual challenges. The TRAX Light Rail Extension to the City of Draper is the final leg of a seven-year plan that invests in the future of the entire Salt Lake Region.

It is exactly the kind of thinking we need to see in communities across America, and DOT is proud to have played its part.

Poster for Front Lines 2015 by Utah Transit Authority

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