When people talk about transportation research, they talk about possibilities, not certainties. The conversation about research is framed in years--even decades--the only certainty is that research and development is a long-term investment.
But when we invest in a rail safety research program like the one at the University of Texas Pan-American, we're investing in a program that will pay dividends for the nation now as well as in the years ahead. So when I helped cut the ribbon yesterday on UTPA's University Transportation Center for Rail Safety, I did so with high expectations...
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of riding Amtrak from Washington, DC, to Philadelphia with the president of the Amtrak Fan Club. Of course, that title is unofficial and it comes with very few responsibilities because Amtrak's number one fan, Joe Biden, is already very busy as our nation's Vice President.
As Vice President Biden knows, it’s a good time to be in the Amtrak fan club. And it's not just because Amtrak has broken ridership record for ten of the past eleven years, reaching nearly 32 million riders in 2013.
It's because yesterday in Philadelphia--thanks to DOT support--Amtrak put into service the largest fleet of new electric locomotives built in the United States since World War II.
Photo courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama said that we need to help upgrade America's transportation system because, "in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure."
It's no coincidence that the President explicitly included our nation's ports in the list of resources we need to revitalize to ensure "opportunity for all." Because our ports are truly opportunity multipliers. In addition to the direct employment America's ports sustain managing the critical economic activity of moving freight to and from ships, our ports are economic engines, fueling good jobs--not just on our coasts, but across the country--from manufacturing jobs on land to skilled crew at sea...
Today, the Obama Administration is hosting the first-ever virtual "Big Block of Cheese Day," during which dozens of White House officials will take to social media for a day long 'open house' to answer your questions in real-time.
And we're happy to announce that U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will participate with a Twitter townhall on "Rebuilding America's Infrastructure" from 4:30 to 5:00 pm (ET).
As a former mayor, Secretary Foxx knows transportation from the most local level of serving citizens and connecting communities all the way to the national level of innovative financing and freight policy. So, if you're interested in transportation, opportunity, and moving America forward, @SecretaryFoxx is the place to be.
That's today, from 4:30 to 5:00 pm. And you can start asking questions now using the hashtag #AsktheWH.
It's only a short time from now, so tell your friends, your family, and your fellow commuters to join us online today!
Between Communities, Across Modes
Each year, the Transportation Research Board's Annual Meeting brings thousands of professionals to Washington, DC, to discuss an extraordinary range of transportation topics from the 30,000-foot policy view down to the minute details of pavement performance data. It's a real highlight of the calendar for many in the transportation community, including a lot of us here at DOT.
If you attended TRB this week, you probably heard the words "partnership" and "collaborate" more than once. And if you work in transportation, you'll probably be hearing a lot more of them.
Today I spoke at the Transportation Research Board’s Annual meeting about a deficit that is threatening our country and the priorities I’m proposing to counter it.
In recent years, we've been a nation careening from crisis to crisis, keeping our foot on the brakes of economic growth, and creating uncertainty because we can’t agree on how to fix a deficit. Except that the deficit most people think of --the fiscal deficit-- is not the one I mean.
I spoke today about our infrastructure deficit.
While the fiscal deficit has been shrinking, the infrastructure deficit is growing every year.
For the past few years, it is has been my privilege to see firsthand a dramatic change in government culture: the public availability and application of data. This rapid increase of Open Data is not valuable in and of itself; its value lies in the ability of data to tell a story, guide how we direct our resources during a disaster, and help consumers make more informed decisions.
At DOT, we've been leaders of Data.Gov's Safety community. And yesterday, at the second annual Safety Datapalooza, innovators from government and the private sector shared some of the achievements in public safety made possible by this revolution in Open Data.
In the transportation sphere, leaders of two startups using safety data --Keychain Logisitcs and Bustr--shared how they've taken the data DOT makes publicly available and created useful apps for consumers as well as business owners.
When you get a bunch of transportation people in a room to talk about highway operations--like we did yesterday at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board--interesting things are bound to happen. Okay, it might not appear to be an exciting topic, but roadway operations really can make a big difference in our everyday lives.
What exactly do we mean by operations? Keeping our highways open and flowing at the speed a growing economy requires...
In 1977 –the year after I began my railroading career– 48 railroad employees lost their lives in switching accidents. That’s four lives every month in switching accidents alone. That's more than a statistic to me. My father is a retired switchman; I switched box cars; and five of my friends have been killed on duty during my railroading career.
More than three decades later, we have made significant progress. In 2013, only one employee died during a switching operation. And while we still see this as one too many, it shows us what’s possible when the Federal Railroad Administration, the rail industry, and rail labor come together to form safety partnerships and eliminate risks.
Photo courtesy joeknowsphoto
During the past week, we've been looking at the 2013 accomplishments of some of the agencies within DOT. Today, we're wrapping up our retrospective with a look at some of what we achieved across multiple modes of transportation.
2013 was a year of big changes at DOT. We operated under the first full calendar year of MAP-21, the current national surface transportation law, including its expanded Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program, or TIFIA. We also launched our National Freight Advisory Committee to help guide the Department's freight improvement efforts. And of course, we welcomed aboard our current Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, while saying goodbye to outgoing Secretary Ray LaHood. But as you’ll see below, one thing that didn’t change is our commitment to safety.