I started day four of my “Invest in America, Commit to the Future” bus tour by participating in a roundtable discussion with Congressman Bennie Thompson and local officials at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. It was a great opportunity to hear firsthand about the challenges facing the region and the need to create ladders of opportunity to connect folks to jobs, schools, and a better quality of life.
After visiting the Ohio River Bridges project, I headed to UPS Worldport in Louisville, where I had a great conversation with Scott Davis, Chairman and CEO of UPS, and business leaders from around the region.
What they made clear to me is the scope of the challenge we’re facing when it comes to transportation in America.
By 2050, we’re going to have to haul an additional 14 billion tons of freight around this country. Needless to say, without new investment, supply chains will fall apart, hindering job growth and harming retailers, manufacturers, and the millions of American consumers who need their goods to be transported efficiently and affordably.
That’s why we’re working so hard to spread the message that investments in infrastructure are absolutely crucial to the health of our nation’s economy.
After our roundtable discussion, I had a chance to tour the Worldport facility with Scott Davis. It’s a great operation – processing an average of 1.6 million packages a day. In fact, I learned that the average package spends only 13 minutes inside the facility! We have one of the best freight systems in the world – but we need to continue investing to stay that way.
This morning, I traveled to Pickaway County, Ohio to kick off my “Invest in America, Commit to the Future” bus tour. Over the next five days, I’ll be traveling to eight states – and logging roughly 2,000 miles – to raise awareness about the difference transportation can make in our country and the importance of investing in better transportation – and a brighter future.
There’s no better example than the work taking place right now in Pickaway County to improve our ability to move freight in Ohio and across the country.
This road project received $16 million from DOT’s TIGER program. And it’s a worthwhile investment because it’s going to make a difference in the lives of hundreds – if not hundreds of thousands – of Americans.
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that one of the biggest challenges this nation faces is our ability to move the freight that fuels our economy. Given the population growth experts anticipate and the economic growth Americans expect, we will need to haul 14 billion more tons of freight by 2050.
One of our principal assets in this challenge is our Marine Transportation System (MTS)-- the waterways, ports, and intermodal landside connections that allow the various modes of transportation to move people and goods to, from, and on the water. These resources help us sustain America's global competitiveness and our national security, but getting all of the pieces to work together efficiently and effectively is no easy task.
To help us do that, we leverage the expertise of the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Committee (MTSNAC), a group of leaders from transportation companies, trade associations, state and local government, labor organizations, universities, and environmental groups...
When you talk to most people in the transportation industry, their career journey has often been filled with twists and turns and unexpected opportunities. Few students have a clear understanding of how their imagined career paths might lead them to working in this vibrant, multimodal field.
But transportation is always evolving and growing, and the workforce the industry needs is rapidly changing as well. To keep pace, women are now working in once male-dominated career fields. Today, you'll see women filling positions such as skilled high speed rail engineers; technically savvy aviation experts; astute truck, rail, transit, and maritime operators; and quick-minded statisticians and business analysts.
To help improve women’s participation in transportation careers, the industry must do its best to link them to role models and opportunities; show them how their efforts can have a great impact on local and national communities; and create an adaptable workplace that’s fair, flexible, and collaborative for all employees...
Although you've read a few spring-themed blog posts here in the past two weeks, at the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation we don’t consider spring to have truly arrived until the Navigation Season opens and ships begin moving through the Seaway's locks.
And I'm happy to say that--with last Friday's official Seaway opening ceremony, Monday's opening of the two American locks, and Tuesday's transit of our first vessel--spring has sprung on the U.S.-operated portion of the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
The vessel Charlotte Theresa, first to transit Eisenhower Lock in the 2014 season.
The Seaway offers our nation an efficient, environmentally sound artery for freight moving into and out of American farms, mines, and manufacturing plants. For American businesses, the Seaway is a unique gateway to global markets.
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."