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Earlier this week, I was in Dearborn, Michigan, to celebrate completion of the John D. Dingell Transit Center. This multimodal transit center, funded by a Recovery Act grant of $28.2 million, is a great example of how a collaborative approach to station development can meet the needs of everyone involved. The new station in Dearborn is a win for the disability community, freight shippers, and passenger rail.

One of the center’s most significant achievements is its accessibility. The platforms at the new station have been designed to provide level boarding to all rail passengers directly from the platform to the new fleet of passenger rail cars that will operate throughout the Midwest network. By coordinating respectfully with each other, project partners were able to engineer a solution that ensured the rights of the disability community and ensured the flow of freight traffic was not impinged...

Photo of F.R.A. Administrator Joe Szabo at Dearborn Station

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In Maine last week, within a day of each other, two events occurred that add up to one compelling argument for investing in America's transportation system.

One was resoundingly positive --the opening of the new Maine Kennebec Bridge-- and I was happy to observe that celebration firsthand on Friday. The other event --Thursday's collapse of a section of the Eastport Pier-- caused at least one injury and damage to several vessels and a truck.

The pier's collapse and the ongoing demand for the limited funding available to rebuild roads and bridges in Maine and across America are a clear demonstration of how we've starved our nation's transportation infrastructure for far too long...

Phot of old and new bridges across Maine's Kennebec River
New and old Kennebec River crossings; photo courtesy Kennebec Journal
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As the 2014 navigation season marches along on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, shipping volumes are generally outpacing last year's levels. That's a good sign because six Great Lakes Seaway System ports have already received a Pacesetter Award this year for increasing international cargo tonnage during the 2013 shipping season. They might well be on their way to taking home another award next year!

We award the Robert J. Lewis Pacesetter when a port increases its international freight volume over the previous year. The 2014 awardees for their 2013 performance are:

  • Port of Green Bay,
  • Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority,
  • Duluth Seaway Port Authority,
  • Port of Cleveland,
  • Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and
  • Port of Monroe

Photo of Port of Green Bay

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This week, millions of Americans will travel to places near and far to celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday offers us a particular opportunity to express our gratitude, and as we gather to share the blessings of friends and family, and the bounty of our country, I hope we also take a moment to honor the service of our military and the sacrifices of their families.

One of the things for which I am most thankful is the outstanding team here at DOT. Whether by road, rail, ship, or plane, Americans depend on a dynamic transportation system to reach their holiday destinations and return home safely. The Department's men and women --here in Washington and in field offices and air traffic control towers across the nation-- work tirelessly to ensure that our transportation system gets you where you need to go.

Photo collage of different transportation workers

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For five and half years, one of the best parts of my job has been meeting with mayors and people at the local level working hard to get things done.  To leaders like the National League of Cities members I met with this week, transportation comes down to improving quality of life.

I used to be a mayor myself. I served in Riverdale, Illinois, the first outer-ring suburb on the southern edge of Chicago.

Riverdale is a railroad town.  It has two major rail yards, five railroads that run through it, and two commuter rail stations.  So I understand how community leaders are eager to have safe, reliable, efficient rail connections but also the necessary tools to address challenges like blocked crossings or train horn noise.  Above all, they want to know that their communities are safe –and so do we...

Photo of rail yard

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U.S global competitiveness depends on America’s seaports. As President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary Foxx take the necessary steps to designate, invest in and build a long overdue national freight network, our nation’s seaports must play a critical role.

Ports are the gateways to our regional and national economies. Last year alone, 1.26 billion metric tons of international cargo, worth about $1.75 trillion, moved through America’s seaports, together with about 800 million metric tons of domestic cargo. Our port-related infrastructure connects American farmers, manufacturers and consumers to the world marketplace and are facilitating the increase of American exports that are essential to our sustained economic growth.

In total, that port activity is responsible for more than 13 million jobs and over $200 million in federal, state and local revenue. Efficient freight movement is a crucial component of every state economy, and to the pocketbooks of every American...

Photo of containership and port

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This past weekend --with a grant agreement in Oakland on Saturday and a groundbreaking in Los Angeles a day earlier-- California's transit riders enjoyed an opportunity to see two stages in the life-cycle of public transportation projects. Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan helped celebrate both occasions, an apt demonstration of how our FTA supports good transit options from planning to construction.

Photo of Purple Line extension groundbreaking

On Friday, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) broke ground on Section 1 of its Westside Purple Line extension, the first of three planned extensions for the subway line. The Section 1 extension is expected to improve capacity and travel times from Beverly Hills to downtown Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Union Station, and other communities. The extension will improve travel through one of the region's most congested areas and give more people access to jobs, schools, and other services. The project includes three new underground stations and the purchase of 34 new vehicles, stimulating an American supply chain that extends far beyond California. In addition, LACMTA estimates that construction will create more than 22,000 jobs.

A few hundred miles north, the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) is planning to add a dedicated bus line between Oakland and San Leandro. And on Saturday, Acting Administrator McMillan signed a grant agreement to help move the 9.5-mile East Bay Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project from plan to reality. The proposed BRT line will have a dedicated travel lane for buses, level boarding, pre-payment kiosks, and improved safety features. Most importantly, it will speed up travel times for an estimated 125,000 people each day...

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If you’re like most people, the global supply chain isn’t exactly must-see TV. You’ve heard about it, and you know it plays a role in your life, but it’s kind of abstract. So let’s talk about something you can feel: that smartphone in your pocket or purse.

It’s safe to say that most of us have smartphones, but we don’t often consider the logistics that go into their creation.

The phone I carry was designed in Canada and manufactured in China. It contains glass from the Dow Corning Plant in my home state of Kentucky, software written in South Carolina, a processor from South Korea, a semiconductor from Germany, flash memory from Japan, and rare earth elements from India, Brazil and South Africa.

Cruising across oceans in containerships and crossing countries and borders in trucks and trains, the world’s raw materials head to factories, and finished goods head to stores –and eventually into consumers’ hands. It is a complex system that makes this possible.

Photo of laden container ship

And America’s transportation infrastructure is our ticket into this system...

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When our transportation system is not as efficient as it needs to be, we don't just calculate the cost in congestion on our roadways. We must also measure it by our inability to get essential supplies to our armed forces overseas. The ability to move the food, equipment, and supplies our forces need to do their jobs and safely return home is a critical requirement for our nation’s transportation system.

When our transportation system is stronger, our military is stronger.

That's why the Department of Transportation works closely with the U.S. Transportation Command to ensure that America can meet its strategic deployment requirements and sustain our military. And yesterday, at the Fall Meeting of the National Defense Transportation Association and USTRANSCOM, it was clear that we must continue to do so...

Photo from wheelhouse of military vessel in busy port
Photo credit USTRANSCOM.
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Last week I had the pleasure of participating in the dedication ceremony for the Englewood Flyover, a project funded largely by a $126 million High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program grant.

It’s a perfect example of the type of important projects that can be advanced with predictable, dedicated funding for rail...

Photo of passenger train passing over freight train via Englewood flyover

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