At the Department of Transportation, we’ve been talking for months –if not years– about America’s infrastructure deficit. If you've been reading this blog, then you’ve heard me talk about 100,000 bridges old enough for Medicare, billions of dollars in backlogged transit projects, and the growing costs of waiting as cities and states put their transportation plans on hold. And you've seen our highway trust fund ticker and know how close we are to running out of money altogether.
But a week ago, that all changed. Because last Wednesday, President Obama laid out his vision for a four year, $302-billion-dollar transportation plan to modernize this country’s infrastructure and put us on the path to solving this problem...
As part of DOT’s comprehensive response to recent derailments of trains carrying crude oil, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx held a call-to-action meeting with the rail community last month to identify immediate steps that could be taken to improve safety. Today, little more than a month later, DOT and the nation's major freight railroads announced steps to help ensure that crude oil transported by rail moves safely from its origin to its destination.
Railroads have agreed to:
- Increased track inspections--beyond what is required by federal regulations--on routes with trains carrying 20 or more carloads of crude oil;
- Better braking technology allowing for faster stopping and a decreased likelihood of pileup;
- Traffic routing technology that uses the Rail Corridor Risk Management System to determine the safest and most secure routes for trains carrying 20 or more carloads of crude oil;
- Lower speeds through designated urban areas for trains carrying at least one older DOT-111 car; and
- Other steps including working with communities along crude oil rail transport routes, increased trackside safety technology, specialized training for local first responders, and emergency response capability planning.
During the past few months, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to visit several of America's ports with both President Obama and Vice President Biden. Yesterday, when Vice President Biden and I visited America's Central Port in Granite City, Illinois, we were both fortunate to be joined by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and--in particular--by a favorite son of Illinois and a favorite of the U.S. Department of Transportation, former Secretary Ray LaHood.
Being joined by former Secretary LaHood at America's Central Port is special because he is one of only a few people who know how good a job I have--in fact, he has said more than once that being Secretary was the best job of his three decades in public service. It's also special because he knows as well as anyone how important America's interior ports are to the future of our nation's economy.
Yesterday, we all had the chance to see America's Central Port, including the construction underway at the new South Harbor. When it’s finished, the project will connect four interstate highways and major rail lines so that businesses can move their goods faster from the factory to the river and then down the river to market.
On February 17, 2009--five years ago--President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. In office less than a month, he took a huge step forward in leading this nation out of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. At the U.S. Department of Transportation, we knew the important role transportation could play in getting the economy back on its feet and when given the opportunity to help through Recovery Act funds, we said, "Yes, we can."
Five years later, DOT is proud to say, "Yes, we did."
This Valentine’s Day, FMCSA wants professional drivers to know we care about their health and well-being, and that now there are more resources than ever to maintain heart-healthy routines on the road.
A few months ago, I went on a ride-along with a very experienced owner-operator, and we traveled from Maryland to Missouri. Riding along with this remarkable professional driver provided an eye opening view into the stress a professional driver faces in managing unpredictable schedules demanded by shippers and receivers. America’s five million truck and bus drivers operate within tight budgets; battle relentless road congestion; and manage multiple priorities to keep their commitment to their customers.
Those two days also gave me a better understanding of the challenges a driver faces when trying to take care of personal needs, food, stretching, and exercising. Time is short for exercise, and too often healthy food choices aren’t readily available...
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.