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.
Our core goal at the Federal Railroad Administration is to ensure continuous safety improvement. Year after year, this is our measuring stick for success –and we are succeeding.
Over the past decade, train accidents have declined 43 percent, including a 41 percent drop in derailments and a 34 percent drop in accidents at highway-rail grade crossings. Meanwhile, preliminary data for 2013 shows we’re on pace for another record-setting year in railroad safety, with reductions in all categories of accidents.
In 2013 we worked to drive continuous safety improvements by:
- Advancing technical and human factors;
- Responding decisively; and
- Investing in high-performing rail...
Here at the Maritime Administration (MARAD), we continue working tirelessly to improve our marine transportation system with innovative projects across the country. As our economy rebuilds and jobs are created, we are reminded just how much the maritime industry has contributed to these growing numbers and more importantly. . . Why Maritime Matters!
That's why we spent 2013 continuing to:
- Support port infrastructure in advance of a newly widened Panama Canal;
- Invest in U.S. shipyards;
- Move more freight on our rivers, Great Lakes, and waterways, as well as through American river, lake, and sea ports; and
- Work toward a robust national maritime strategy...
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...