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With high schools and colleges back in session, and term projects under discussion, now is a good time for science and engineering students to begin thinking about solutions to transportation challenges.

Last week, we featured a blog post from NHTSA on an auto safety technology challenge. Today we've got something a little less grounded: the Secretary's annual Recognizing Innovation in Aviation & Aerospace Science and Engineering (RAISE) Award.  Through this program –now in its third year– we hope to identify and help develop the next generation of leaders in aviation and aerospace...

Photo of students working in aerospace lab

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Regular readers of the Fast Lane blog know that at DOT, safety is our top priority.  But when most folks think about safety, they think about the traditional tools that protect people as they travel – seatbelts, airbags, steel.  It may come as a surprise that DOT is leading the effort on a new frontier for safety, one that will keep people safe by preventing accidents before they even happen.

That's why I'm so excited about connected vehicles, cars that are able to talk to or see each other, even when the driver can’t.

Early studies indicate that Vehicle to Vehicle Communication (V2V) has the potential to help drivers avoid 70 to 80 percent of vehicle crashes involving unimpaired drivers.

Photo of a test V-2-V vehicle on the road

V2V has very promising potential, and the researchers and engineers from around the globe who have come together this week at the ITS World Congress in Detroit are just the community to help us realize that potential.

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As summertime draws to a close, I want to share with you some of the great work that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration safety investigators and our law enforcement partners did these past few months to protect the public from riding unsafe buses during their vacations.

If you visited our National Parks in Wyoming, Idaho, and South Dakota this summer, you might have noticed these men and women diligently at work inspecting buses and trucks. Indeed, federal and state inspectors executed a 12-week truck and bus inspection blitz throughout the Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Mt. Rushmore National Parks.

Photo of the inspection team at Grand Teton National Park

Working together with the Highway Patrols of each state and with the assistance of National Park Service rangers, these highly trained investigators examined the overall vehicle maintenance of the many motorcoaches transporting visitors to the parks as well as large trucks passing through the area...

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At the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we’re proud of our nearly five-decade record of reducing deaths and injuries from automotive crashes on America’s highways. Since 1970, highway fatalities have declined by 36 percent, and they have fallen by 22 percent just in the last decade. But even with this progress, more than 30,000 people lose their lives each year on our roadways. That's 30,000 too many.

Still, I'm confident our ability to change things for the better will only continue to grow. That’s because, for every automotive safety challenge, there are talented young people in schools across the nation putting their imagination and expertise to work on innovative vehicle technology.

And their talent will again be on display next year as part of the Collegiate Student Safety Technology Design Competition (SSTDC)...

Photo collage of past S.S.T.D.C. winners

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I hope Fast Lane readers recall my post last month after spending some time with UPS driver Jay Valentin; experiencing our road network through his eyes was a tremendously valuable morning for me. So valuable, in fact, that I wanted to do something similar alongside someone who relies on public transit so I could get a ground-level sense of her experience. And yesterday, I got that opportunity when I joined Lan-Anh Thi Phan in her Takoma Park, MD, home and accompanied her on her morning commute.

Lan is a nurse --a patient care manager in the Oncology Ward of MedStar Washington Hospital Center here in the nation’s capital. Lan and the nurses she helps oversee provide care for patients battling cancer. And her reliance on public transit to get to this important job makes it clear: When we or our loved ones depend on dedicated caregivers like Lan Phan, we also depend on a safe, efficient transportation network to get them to work so they can deliver that care...

Photo of Secretary Foxx and Lan riding the 63 Metrobus
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For many, the days after Labor Day mean a return to pre-summer levels of activity. But here in DOT's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), we never slowed down, working hard throughout the summer on several veteran-oriented Boots to Business: Reboot events in conjunction with the Small Business Administration.

We think America's veterans are natural entrepreneurs who can make a real impact on transportation. They are disciplined, goal-oriented self-starters who are accustomed to accountability. They also know the value of being decisive but flexible. With unemployment among our veterans outpacing the national average, training in entrepreneurship just makes sense.

Leveraging the talents of some of our 22.5 million veterans will promote self-employment, strengthen our transportation industry, and help stimulate our economy.

Photo of servicemen and women with American flag

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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...

Photo of Grand Rapids Silver Line B.R.T. vehicle and station

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Having lived so much of my life at sea, I have a special appreciation for seeing a ship rumble down the boards and splash as it first hits the water, launched very much the same way as it has been done throughout history.  (I’ll just need to remember to stand a little further back from the splash next time.) So watching the launch of the Bravante IX, built in a U.S. shipyard, I was especially pleased to know that investments made by the Maritime Administration (MARAD) just three years ago had brought this ship to this moment.

The investment in and upgrading of our infrastructure can be an economic game changer, increasing competiveness and fostering long term job creation.  Over the last five years, the work of two MARAD grant and financing programs have come together at Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL, to provide a perfect example of this principle at work.  So much so, I went there to see it myself.

The Bravante IX is the fifth and final platform supply vessel ordered from Eastern Shipbuilding by Boldini S.A, a Brazilian company.  These U.S.-manufactured vessels will provide service in deepwater oil fields off the coast of South America and were made possible in part by a $241 million Department of Transportation Title XI loan guarantee. What’s more, two MARAD Small Shipyard grants, totaling $3.4 million awarded to Eastern Shipbuilding, allowed for upgrades to their facilities, making the company a more attractive choice to Boldini for vessel construction...

Photo of the Bravante IX splashing into the water
Bravante IX launch; Scott Pittman Photography
Continue Reading MARAD Shipbuilding Loan ››
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At FRA, we’re always looking for opportunities to drive continuous safety improvement, but we can’t do it alone. Thanks to the  State Rail Safety Participation Program, we don’t have to.  This program allows us to supplement our federal inspectors with state inspectors, adding more manpower to help extend our oversight and inspection efforts.

Created in the Federal Rail Safety Act of 1970, the program is 44 years old this year, and we’ve seen impressive growth since its beginnings. The program provides states an excellent opportunity to participate in rail safety, and that's especially valuable now when we’re experiencing significant growth in transporting products such as crude oil by rail.

Photo of Minnesota rail inspector

Recently, for example, a state inspector served as the team lead on a comprehensive FRA/state audit of a major tank car fleet management company.  The audit identified and corrected critical flaws in procedures for maintenance facilities to qualify tank cars for service.

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Last month, here in the Fast Lane readers had the rare opportunity to celebrate the 50-year anniversaries of two different legislative landmarks: the Civil Rights Act on July 2 and the Urban Mass Transportation Act on July 9. Together, these milestones transformed the way Americans freely moved about their communities.

The one-two punch of explicit civil rights protections and federal support for public transit ensured that everyone would have equal access to a city or region's transit service. And today --whether it's bus, light rail, subway, streetcar, ferry boat, or any other form of public shared transportation-- our Federal Transit Administration (FTA) plays a key role in preventing discrimination and increasing access to transit services.

FTA's Office of Civil Rights has provided outstanding leadership on this front by --among other activities-- monitoring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; setting standards for transit agencies’ equal employment opportunity programs; and helping level the playing field so disadvantaged business enterprises have a fair opportunity to compete on federally funded transit projects.

Photo of level boarding ADA access on transit vehicle

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