The end of the year is a good time for reflection and looking back, 2013 was filled with accomplishments for the Federal Highway Administration. The new I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Washington State is a good example of the outstanding work done this year by FHWA in partnership with state and local transportation agencies and the private sector.
Just four weeks after the old bridge collapsed on the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend, the Washington State DOT put a temporary span in place. And fewer than four months after the collapse, a permanent span was open for business on a route that’s vital to motorists and freight movement in the Pacific Northwest. This work is a fitting representative of FHWA, because it shows how our commitment to using innovative tools and solutions is paying off.
The larger themes that make 2013 a year of accomplishment for FHWA are represented in that example:
- Implementing MAP-21;
- Continuing to work with our partners through our Every Day Counts innovation initiative; and
- Helping Americans respond to disaster with Emergency Relief...
Yesterday, we honored the individual and team achievements of the hardworking professionals of DOT with our 46th annual Secretary's Awards. It was truly a celebration.
But among all of the terrific personnel we celebrated, we had the opportunity to single out one of our family for special distinction: Deputy Secretary John Porcari...
Here at the Department of Transportation, a critical part of our mission is to improve our transportation system and help grow our national economy. For the Maritime Administration (MARAD), that means using all of the resources we have available to develop our nation’s ports.
It might surprise you to know these resources include assets other than grant funding, but a couple of weeks ago, I was in New Orleans to participate in the official land transfer of the Poland Street Wharf to the Port of New Orleans.
Last year, for the first time in 55 years, Louisville, Kentucky's "Appliance Park" began running a new assembly line. Refrigerators and washing machines started leaving the loading docks again, and workers' cars started showing up in the parking lot.
Louisville isn’t the only place this is happening. This is just one chapter in larger success story chronicling the recent resurgence of American manufacturing.
At DOT, we’re thinking about the next chapter of this manufacturing renaissance: about how those fridges and washing machines get from the loading dock to American stores and global markets, and about how those workers get home at the end of their shifts...
For those who pay attention to travel, the next five days are the Super Bowl. Airlines and Amtrak have geared up for peak passenger loads. And families and friends are looking forward to holiday gatherings that bring them once again close to their loved ones.
For the men and women we work with here at DOT --in Washington, DC, and in offices and air traffic control facilities across the country-- Thanksgiving is another opportunity to think about your safety. Your safety in the skies, your safety on the rails.
And, in particular, your safety over the road. Because this year, AAA projects that of the 43.4 million Americans who are traveling more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, nearly 39 million of them will head out for their Thanksgiving destinations by car.
Keep your family smiling throughout your trip by driving safely.
In preparation for another record Thanksgiving holiday week, Amtrak is running every available passenger rail car in its fleet, while adding additional service in the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago hub, the Pacific Northwest, and in California.
This is hardly a surprise. As I wrote on this blog recently, Amtrak has set annual ridership records in 10 out of the last 11 years, fueled by a growing demand in more than 500 communities nationwide. That includes Missouri, where Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner – operating on a 238-mile rail line serving eight cities between St. Louis and Kansas City – has set six consecutive annual ridership records.
FRA Administrator Joe Szabo; photo courtesy Cathy Morrison, Missouri Department of Transportation.
Yesterday, in Osage City, I joined Missouri DOT, Union Pacific, and Amtrak at a ribbon cutting for a new railroad bridge that will eliminate the rail line’s last chokepoint between Jefferson City and St. Louis. And in addition to benefiting four daily passenger trains, the new railroad bridge also reduces delays for 60 daily freight trains, which is great news for Missouri’s farmers, manufacturers, and businesses...
From the President and Vice President to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, and many others at DOT, the Obama Administration is working to keep the economy--and the freight that fuels it--moving forward. From ports to rail to roads, America needs a coordinated effort to keep our economic arteries flowing as effectively as possible.
Yesterday, as part of that ongoing effort, we proposed designating a series of highways as a Primary Freight Network.
Designating these sections of highway will help the States direct their road maintenance and improvement resources where they can have the biggest economic impact. As Administrator Mendez said, "By identifying critical freight highways, we will focus more attention on the routes upon which America’s businesses rely."
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting CSX's Northwest Ohio Terminal with Vice President Joe Biden. It's not our first trip to a key freight hub together. Last month, the Vice President and I visited the Ports of Baltimore, Charleston, and Savannah.
Why freight hubs? Because this Administration knows that moving freight is the lifeblood of our economy.
Most of you are familiar with the high cost of congestion and its impact on our nation’s roadways, our economic competitiveness, the environment, and the time commuters needlessly lose stuck in traffic each year. According to the Texas Transportation Institute, the total financial cost of congestion in 2011 was $121 billion. Of that total, about $27 billion worth was wasted time and diesel fuel from trucks moving goods on the system.
So what to do?
I’ll tell you what Northern California has done. Just recently, I joined Congressman Jerry McNerney and other state and local officials at the Port of Stockton for the dedication of M-580, an important Marine Highway project known as the “California Green Trade Corridor.”
Ensuring that producers and suppliers can ship freight effectively from coast to coast and to markets around the world is a key part of the DOT mission. But when American forces are deployed abroad, the cargo supporting their efforts becomes particularly important, and our Maritime Administration (MARAD) works hard to sustain our troops with the food, equipment, and personnel they need to do their jobs and return home safely.
Yesterday at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, Acting Maritime Administrator Paul "Chip" Jaenichen reminded students that "logistics matter." The business of moving, supplying, and maintaining our joint forces is critical to their success. Logistics determine whether we can deploy a force at all; they determine where and when we can do so; and they determine the tempo and reach with which our forces can fight.
Acting Administrator Jaenichen also made it clear to students that, when it comes to logistics, MARAD has their backs.