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Innovation was the hallmark of former Federal Highway Administrator --now Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary-- Victor Mendez's tenure here at FHWA. And it's no secret that Transportation Secretary Foxx has made it a top priority across DOT as well. Getting safer, more durable projects from idea to reality faster and at less cost just makes sense all around, and it's a key part of GROW AMERICA, the legislative proposal Secretary Foxx sent to Congress last spring.

In July, I saw firsthand the benefits of Pennsylvania's focus on highway innovation when I traveled to the Keystone State to see how state transportation officials are building a culture of innovation into their work. I left from my visit impressed at what the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) has achieved...

Photo of road construction in Lackawanna County

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In case you haven't registered yet, Secretary Foxx is hosting a virtual National Town Hall discussion today. Here at DOT, we're pretty excited about it.

The Secretary wants to explain why we need a long-term transportation bill, how it would improve the transportation you rely on, and what you can do to help make it happen. And, he wants to hear from you, too.

After all, we can't do this alone...

Photo of Secretary Foxx

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Last week – just hours before we were scheduled to begin cutting transportation funding to states – Congress found a way to postpone the immediate crisis, and extend transportation funding ten more months, until next May.

While we at DOT are glad to avoid those painful cuts, we –along with thousands of commuters, construction workers, freight shippers and manufacturers– know that it’s still not the long-term solution that America’s transportation system really needs.

If you agree, then I want you to join me this Wednesday, August 6, at 1:00pm Eastern time for my GROW AMERICA National Town Hall...

Photo collage of different modes of transportation

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Like many Americans, when Jesus "Jay" Valentin --a UPS driver-- goes to sleep at night in his New Jersey home, he's got a lot on his mind.

He thinks about tomorrow's deliveries and worries about what the traffic will be like and what the weather will mean for road conditions. He calculates how much next month's mortgage payment will leave his family –his wife Jenny and four kids–  for savings. He wonders how he will pay for his daughter Tiffany’s college education –she’s 16 now and thinking towards the future.

Last Friday, I had the chance to meet Jay and some of his coworkers at the UPS hub in Secaucus, NJ. It was an eye-opener in many ways...

Photo of Secretary Foxx going over details with UPS driver Jay Valentin

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Last week in Paducah, Kentucky, I had the opportunity to tour the M/V Donna Rushing. This tug, originally built in 1973, received a top-to-bottom renovation in 2011, making it one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly towboats on U.S. inland waterways.

Photo of the m?V Donna Rushing pushing barges up the Ohio River

While it may look the same as it did when it was first built 40 years ago, this workhorse has been updated with more than one hundred energy-saving and environmentally-friendly components. Two new fuel-efficient engines running on biofuel also double as heaters for the boat’s wheelhouse, galley, and cabins. Environmentally friendly hydraulic oils and lubricants as well as a shift to LED lighting for better illumination and efficiency add to the Donna Rushing's sustainable improvements...

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Recently I posted on this blog about my visit to a Siemens plant in Louisville, Kentucky, where investments in rail have created new jobs.

Well, to quote Yogi Berra, my visit on July 8 to Columbus Castings in Ohio was like “déjà vu all over again.” Once again, I saw proof that improvements in our rail system create new orders for manufacturers and suppliers, and new jobs for American workers.

During my tour, I saw skilled employees making components for one order that is modernizing Amtrak’s long-distance services.  Columbus Castings added more than 30 new jobs for just this one order.

Photo of a worker at Columbus Castings

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Last week, I swung through three states in two days, hopping from Kentucky to Rhode Island and then down the I-95 corridor to Connecticut.

Drivers in these states, like drivers in so many others, know their roads and bridges are in need of investment. In Kentucky, almost a third of the roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition. And in Connecticut and Rhode Island, close to three-quarters of the bridges are structurally obsolete.  Twenty-mile backups on I-95 are all too common in those states.

I wish I could say I was visiting those states to off help, asking their governors, “What more can the federal government do? Where can we invest more in your bridges? How about your roads? Your transit systems?”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask those questions.

Due to inaction in Congress, I was forced to deliver an entirely different message: “Soon, you won’t be receiving more transportation funding –you’ll be receiving less.”

Photo of Secretary Foxx meeting with Connecticut elected officials

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From DOT: Yesterday, we marked the 58th anniversary of the Highway Trust Fund, an instrumental source of road funding for all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. Authorizing legislation for the fund, the Federal-Aid Highway Act, was signed into law and went into immediate effect on June 29, 1956. And for 58 years, the fund has supported repairs, maintenance, and new construction of roads, bridges, and tunnels across America.

Today, we're concerned about the 59th year. Unless Congress acts soon, the Highway Trust Fund could begin bouncing checks as early as August. That means states won't be reimbursed as planned for road projects. And that means trouble for travelers, businesses, and consumers from coast to coast.

That's why, today, we're continuing our series of guest blog posts from frontline elected officials who have to manage the consequences of the looming shortfall. We think Dayton's Mayor Nan Whaley makes it very clear how everyday American life counts on good transportation; we hope you'll agree...

Photo of replacement of Dayton-area 1927 bridge with rendering of new bridge

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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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