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Let's protect our most vulnerable passengers

Year in and year out, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) dedicates itself to ensuring the safety of the American public on our nation’s highways. Nowhere is that commitment stronger than in our high-priority efforts to ensure the safety of children.

And Child Passenger Safety Week is an opportunity to recognize –and advance – that effort.

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Like most colleges across the nation in early September, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY, has seen a burst of activity in the past couple of weeks.  And although I'm sure many Academy fans would rather hear about the Mariners' 27-20 win over the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Bears in last weekend's football matchup, I'll lead off with a few words about Acceptance Day.

Photo of VADM Braun swearing midshipmen into US Navy Reserve

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Yesterday was a terrible day for our community.  Our colleagues at the Navy Yard experienced an incomprehensible act of violence that resulted in loss of life and disruption of everyday life for so many.

Our hearts go out to the families of those who died in this senseless tragedy and the victims who are recuperating from their injuries.  Our thoughts and prayers are also with the many people traumatized by this long and frightening ordeal.

We are very appreciative of the bravery shown by the many first responders, who acted so selflessly to protect the people who live and work in the area.  Our thanks cannot meet the measure of their courage and willingness to sacrifice for the safety of others. 

Photo of DOT H.Q. with flags at half-mast
DOT Headquarters with flags at half-mast; photo courtesy Arthur Dexter.

We are further grateful for the help provided by DOT employees yesterday to our Navy Yard colleagues. 

I'm also very grateful that no one at DOT Headquarters was hurt, and I'm proud of the professionalism that everyone at DOT showed by remaining calm and patient throughout the day.

We at DOT share with our Navy Yard colleagues a commitment to public service. Today, we will do our best to return to that commitment.

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Oklahoma City is enjoying a renaissance that began when our residents chose to invest in the quality of life of our community. Over the past two decades, the people of Oklahoma City have voted to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in cultural amenities, schools and infrastructure designed to revitalize our community and make it a destination of choice for young, creative professionals and the jobs they attract.

These highly educated, highly mobile young people value communities with rich cultural, sports and entertainment offerings , a walkable urban environment, and access to public transportation.

In regard to Oklahoma City’s vision for public transportation, the $13.6 million TIGER grant from the Department of Transportation is a game changer. It’s an opportunity to accelerate our efforts to develop a  comprehensive regional transit system that meets the expectations of our residents and the needs of a 21st Century City.

Artist's rendering of the proposed Santa Fe Depot redesign in Oklahoma City

We began this process in 2005 with the creation of a Fixed Guideways Study, which laid out a blueprint for a 21st Century transit system that includes buses, bus rapid transit and rail-based transit. In 2009, the residents passed a penny sales tax with an expectation that, among other projects, we would build a streetcar system.

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Each day at the Maritime Administration we work tirelessly to achieve our mission to foster, promote, and develop the merchant maritime industry of the United States.  Ensuring that our maritime industry continues to thrive is an economic and national security imperative.

So, when the Duluth Seaway Port Authority was selected last week to receive a grant from DOT’s 2013 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program, I jumped at the chance to visit the Port of Duluth-Superior and make the $10 million grant announcement.

Photo of Chip Jaenichen Making TIGER announcement at Port Duluth

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Thanks to DOT’s TIGER program, last week was a great one for American rail.  Of the $474 million in funding awarded to 52 projects in 37 states, $146 million of it – or about 30 percent of all funding – went to 17 rail projects in 16 states, extending the program’s four-year reach to 48 states and $808 million in project funding.

Supporting President Obama’s call to “Fix-it First,” I had the pleasure of announcing two of these grant awards in person, and to see firsthand the commitment of state, city, and community leaders to do what it takes to enhance the safety, efficiency and reliability of their freight rail systems. 

Photo of FRA Administrator Szabo with Vermont Governor Shumlin
FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo with Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin; photo courtesy Vermont Digger, John Herrick
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In Davidson Country, Tennessee, some of the traffic signals were installed when the Sony Walkman was still cutting-edge technology.  Today, they don't even make parts for those signals anymore.

That's one reason why the Department of Transportation selected the Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority's traffic signal replacement project as one of this year’s TIGER recipients.

This project will modernize signal technology along two vital bus lines to maximize the number of buses that can travel their routes, getting more service out of the same roads. It's a change that benefits drivers, pedestrians, and transit riders.

Photo of Administrator Rogoff touring the AMP BRT in Nashville

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On this National Day of Service, we'd like to honor those who inspired our new national tradition of service by taking action on September 11, 2001.

Earlier today, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited a middle school service project in Tucson, Arizona, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. There, he reminded students that their service makes a difference.

We at DOT hope that the two video reflections here will serve as a reminder that when we all do our part--to help strangers as well as neighbors--our nation will not falter.

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Last week Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Greg Nadeau and I had the opportunity to see how transportation projects funded through DOT's TIGER program are improving the quality of life in Virginia and Arkansas.

The TIGER transformations are something worth seeing. Which is why I travelled to Richmond to announce a TIGER grant that will rehabilitate the Lexington Delta Frame Bridges along I-64 in Rockbridge County.

Photot of truck traffic on I-64

I-64 is an economic fulcrum in the Old Dominion. It serves commuters, tourists, Virginia’s economy, and the nation--in part by providing vital access for freight heading to and from the Hampton Roads ports.

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The City of Foley is very excited to be a recipient of a $4.7 million TIGER Grant. The infrastructure improvements this award will fund include safe bicycle and pedestrian paths for residents and visitors throughout the community, and they will certainly have a very positive effect on our citizens.   

For years, a fact of life in Foley has been that our city is divided into four quadrants by the two major highways that intersect the city. Because of the grid created by the highways, key areas of the city, including the library and centrally located 6-acre park have not been easy to access except by car. 

TIGER funding from DOT will allow all four quadrants of the city to be more easily accessible with bicycle and pedestrian improvements that will create safe paths for better connectivity. These changes will promote walking and biking, and will enhance both quality of life and recreational opportunities.

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