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With the economy starting to make a recovery, our aging transportation infrastructure cannot keep up with the rising demand to move goods and people.  Nationwide, cities and transportation stakeholders have long lists of infrastructure improvement projects necessary to meet the demand, but there just is not enough funding to make them a reality. And worse, the Highway Trust Fund is on the brink of insolvency.

It is my hope that Congress will soon reauthorize Federal transportation policy and provide a robust, long-term stream of funding to stabilize the Highway Trust Fund and support our nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.

I was very pleased that Secretary Foxx recently took the time to visit the City of Industry and get a first-hand look at two of our most important infrastructure projects, the Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority’s (ACE) Nogales Street Grade Separation Project (Nogales) and the California SR-57/SR-60 Confluence Project (Confluence Project). These two projects are classic examples of how strategic local infrastructure investments can trigger public benefits such as increased mobility, improved safety, economic growth, and environmental protection.

Benefits that can extend beyond city limits and ripple across the country...

Before and after photos of the Confluence

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It should be clear to Fast Lane readers by now that we at DOT are not the only ones trying to alert Americans to the fact that our Highway Trust Fund is on a collision course with insolvency.

On ARTBA's Transportation Makes America Work website, you'll learn that our highways and railroads carry 14.6 trillion tons of freight each year, freight worth $19 trillion. It's an eye-opening way of showing that transportation means business, and that business is in jeopardy...

Infographic illustrating the volume and value of freight moved by America's transportation system

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Last week, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to heads of State DOTs across the country advising that, with the Highway Trust Fund heading toward insolvency as early as August, we will soon be forced to implement cash management procedures —including delayed reimbursement for hundreds of road projects that employ thousands of workers.

To show readers how this funding crisis will touch their everyday lives, we’re turning over the Fast Lane to Mayors and Governors across the country this week, who are working on the frontlines to manage the possible consequences of a shortfall.  Each morning this week, we're featuring guest-authored posts illustrating how all Americans will be affected if the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to dip below zero.

We hope you find them as compelling as we do.


Car-mageddon indeed!

The building, rebuilding, and repair of highways and bridges throughout the United States is heading toward a dramatic slowdown –perhaps even a complete halt– this summer. The Federal Highway Trust Fund, source of federal transportation funding for all the states, will run out of money in late August, and Congress has not figured out a way to save it.

To understand what this means --and why it is bad news for every American-- one needs to understand how we as a nation build and maintain the streets, roads, and bridges we depend on every day. Ours is a national system that carries the life blood we know as daily commerce, the moving of people and goods to homes, schools, work sites, and travel destinations.

Nowhere is it more important than in my home state, Kentucky, where motor-vehicle manufacturing, freight movement, agricultural exports, and tourism are pillars of our economy.

Auto manufacturing in Kentucky

Simply put, this immensely valuable system would not be possible without the support of the Federal Highway Administration and funding through the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

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For decades, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, has been preparing leaders for service in the Merchant Marine, our Armed Forces, and other transportation careers.

Several years ago, the Department of Transportation pledged to restore Kings Point as a jewel among America’s five service academies. And the academy's new training vessel, Kings Pointer --which we rechristened yesterday-- is one sign that--together--we are working together to make good on that pledge.

Of course, we did more than simply rename the former NASA vessel. It returns to us having undergone a $3.3 million retrofit that makes it a true state-of-the-art training vessel for the midshipmen of Kings Point.

Photo of Jan Helis as she smashes a champagne bottle against the prow of the T/V Kings Pointer
Jan Helis smashes a bottle of champagne against the prow of the newly rechristened T/V Kings Pointer

There are other signs that we're making good on that pledge, too. Because a lot has changed on the campus in a very short amount of time...

Continue Reading On rechristening the T/V ››
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The I-495 bridge over the Christina River in Wilmington, Delaware, is tilting. If you're reading this in Miami or in Maine, you may think that's too bad for folks in Wilmington, and you may wish the Delaware DOT all the best in fixing it. But it affects you, too.

Because for trucks and cars heading to and from Philadelphia and other points, I-495 provides a key route around downtown Wilmington on the already-congested I-95, the east coast's primary north-south Interstate. It also provides access to and from the Port of Wilmington. And until the Christina Bridge is repaired and reopened, freight—and people--traveling through the mid-Atlantic region on I-95 are likely to encounter significant delays.

Photo of Secretary Fox and others at I-495 bridge near Wilmington, Delaware
At the bridge site in Wilmington. Photos courtesy office of U.S. Senator Tom Carper.

The good news is that we have already begun helping DelDOT by providing $2 million in emergency funding to get started. And our team at the Federal Highway Administration is standing ready to help. 

But America has much more infrastructure that needs to be repaired --and much more infrastructure that needs to be built-- than we have dollars available...

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When is a train station not just a train station? Ask the people who gathered Monday to celebrate the groundbreaking for the third and final phase of the Niagara Falls International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center, and you could get a wide range of answers:

When it represents a wide range of partners coming together and cooperating to get a needed project off the ground. When it increases the transportation options available to local residents as well as international tourists. When it stimulates economic development. And when it also houses U.S. Customs operations for the Department of Homeland Security as well as a museum celebrating the rich history of the Underground Railroad.

And they would all be correct. In addition to the Customs inspection center and the Underground Railroad museum, the new station will offer a more convenient downtown location, upgraded tracks and signals, dedicated passenger rail siding to eliminate conflicts with freight traffic, and improved passenger rail platforms. The LEED Silver passenger rail terminal building will also accommodate multi-modal operations like bus, taxi, and park-and-ride services, making it a true transportation hub for the region...

Rendering of the proposed Niagara Falls, N.Y., rail station

Continue Reading Niagara Falls train station ››
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Many Fast Lane readers know that I’m from local government. Before becoming Transportation Secretary, I was mayor of Charlotte and the head of our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). And while I don’t hold those titles anymore, the old saw is still true: you can take the man out of local government, but you can’t take the local government out of the man.

As much as anything, I remember the competing interests, the complex web of issues and personalities that you have to navigate just to build a mile of road. I can’t remember who said “all politics is local,” but it could easily have been someone working for an MPO.

So when I spoke at the National Association of Regional Councils' annual conference in Louisville yesterday, it felt a little like a homecoming for me...

Photo of Secretary Foxx at N.A.R.C. annual conference
Continue Reading GROW AMERICA boosts ››
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I was honored to join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the White House today to announce Local Foods, Local Places, an Obama Administration initiative to help communities improve access to fresh, local produce--particularly among disadvantaged groups who lack such access. Investing in regional food economies is an investment in rural America, and DOT couldn't be prouder to take part.

Farmers are some the most self-reliant, self-sufficient people I’ve met in this country. But for all that farmers and farm communities can do on their own –and they can do a lot– we also know there are challenges that require more help. And one of those challenges is making sure that farms have access to good transportation.

Photo of rural road and farm

As JFK explained the economic challenges that rural communities face, saying that, “the farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”  

Although JFK said it 54 years ago, it’s still true: freight is a huge concern for rural communities. Transportation determines whether the crop gets to market, and the cost of transportation often determines whether it’s profitable there.

Continue Reading Local Food, Local Places: a ››
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Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Siemens Rail Automation plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and seeing first-hand how investments in rail infrastructure are creating jobs and improving safety.

At the plant in Louisville, there are 26 new, good-paying jobs in engineering, manufacturing, and assembling train control systems and Positive Train Control (PTC) components. Nationwide, Siemens has added nearly 100 new jobs –including highly sought after engineers, analysts, and other skilled manufacturing employees.

Photo of PATH rack demonstration at Siemens
Troy Martin, Plant Manager, FRA Administrator Szabo, and Kevin Riddett, CEO Siemens Freight & Products, Rail Automation. Photos courtesy Siemens.

PTC is the backbone of the next generation of rail safety, and these employees--as well as others like them--are at the forefront of developing this sophisticated technology that can avert accidents and save lives by slowing or stopping a train...

Continue Reading Together, Positive Train ››
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Improving safety and saving lives is at the heart of our mission at DOT. That's why we are committed to keeping tired truckers off the road--for their safety and the safety of others--through common sense rules backed by science, research, and data.

In 2012, thanks to our continued economic recovery and increased demand for freight shipping, there were nearly 10.7 million tractor-trailers and large trucks on the roads in the U.S., with the trucking industry experiencing unprecedented profitability this year.

But that demand has come with a price. Since 2009, we've seen an 18 percent increase in large truck crash fatalities. To put that in perspective, in one year alone, large trucks were involved in 317,000 traffic crashes resulting in an average of 75 deaths per week. That's 11 per day...

Photo collage of families torn apart by truck crashes

Continue Reading Congress Shouldn’t Roll ››
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