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Last week, I had a chance to visit with the National Congress of American Indians to talk about President Obama's transportation budget proposal and what it means for our tribal lands.  And the news was very good.

We all know that transportation isn't just about how we get from one point to another – it's, what President Obama likes to call, a ladder of opportunity.

This is especially true in Indian Country, where a rebuilt road or a new transit system can make the difference in a child getting to school, a father getting to work, or a tribal elder getting to the doctor...

Photo of road work on Jicarilla Apache tribal land

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It's no secret that tax-related filings create a lot of paperwork, but do you know the second biggest paperwork burden from federal regulations?

If you said, "hours-of-service recordkeeping for interstate truck and bus drivers," then you are correct. But not for long, thanks to a proposed rulemaking from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Last week, FMCSA proposed a rule requiring interstate commercial truck and bus companies to use Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) in their vehicles. ELDs record a driver's record of service behind the wheel to improve compliance with the safety rules that govern the number of hours a driver can work. The new rule will improve the quality of hours-of-service data and help reduce crashes by fatigued drivers, preventing approximately 20 fatalities and 434 injuries each year for an annual safety benefit of $394.8 million...

Photo of a woman in the cab of a red truck

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In mid-December 2013--after four high-profile accidents in six months on the Metro-North commuter railroad--the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched Operation Deep Dive, a comprehensive, 60-day safety investigation of Metro-North. Today, we're releasing the results of that detailed review in a report to Congress.

The report indicates that "Metro-North’s management emphasizes on-time performance to the detriment of safe operations and adequate maintenance of its infrastructure, resulting in a deficient safety culture, increased risk and reduced safety on the Metro-North system."


December 1 Metro-North crash at Spuyten Duyvil, photo courtesy Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
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When President Obama and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced funding availability for DOT's 2014 TIGER grants a couple of weeks ago, transportation advocates got pretty excited.

And for all those who asked, "What's a TIGER grant?" the city of Indianapolis has a great answer: DOT's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program fills in a critical funding gap and allows communities to pursue projects that offer a wide range of benefits.

What did Indy do with its $20.5 million 2009 TIGER award? It leveraged it into a $62.5 million mix of public and private funding and created an 8-mile bicycle and pedestrian trail that the New York Times called, "an accessible urban connective tissue."

Photo of busy scene along Indianapolis Cultural Trail

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Yesterday, I went to Capitol Hill to deliver the urgent messages of thousands of mayors, governors, and other leaders from across the country.

The messages I brought to the House Appropriations subcommittee on "Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies" are all variations on the same theme: After years of short-term, last-minute measures, it's time for Congress to step up and bring some stability to how we fund our nation's transportation system.

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The work we do at DOT cannot be done without our partners. Whether we're investing in safety, seeking innovation, or solving regional transportation challenges, success often depends on exceptional groups and individuals doing the heavy lifting and setting the bar high for the rest of us. That's why the Obama Administration has been recognizing Champions of Change in different fields, including transportation.

Like previous winner Beverly Scott--who actually painted red X's on Atlanta buses to show what transit service cuts would mean to commuters--one person with one idea can make a world of difference.

White House Champions of Change logo

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Yesterday I had a chance to talk with members of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) about how President Obama’s four-year transportation plan will enhance rail safety and service, including commuter rail.

The President’s plan includes a blueprint for a $19 billion rail reauthorization that builds upon current rail policy and the $23 billion portfolio of investments we've made since 2009. For the first time, rail will have its own source of dedicated funding as part of a Rail Account within the Highway Trust Fund, finally placing rail on par with other forms of transportation...

Photo of Amtrak Cities Sprinter

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In 2013, transit ridership in the US exceeded 10.7 billion passenger trips. That's great news, but keeping up with that level of demand for public transportation is an enormous challenge.

Last week, President Obama proposed an aggressive budget for transportation that would increase FTA’s funding by more than 60%. It’s a big ask, but a necessary one to pave the way for the President’s other big initiative: a four-year, $302 billion reauthorization package that would bring us more predictable funding and help us tackle many of the challenges we face.

Taken together, these two policy priorities speak volumes about this Administration’s unflagging commitment to revitalize public transportation in this country, address our infrastructure deficit, and provide ladders of opportunity to millions of Americans who need more access to transit service.

Photo of FRA Administrator Szabo and Deputy FTA Administrator McMillan at the American Public Transportation Association legislative conference

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Photo of Secretary Foxx presenting RAISE Award to Kyle SmithI have said over and over again that although we must invest more in America's infrastructure, spending more money is not enough to restore our nation's transportation system to the level of safety and efficiency our economic vitality requires.  We also need some good, old-fashioned American inventiveness so we can use our resources more effectively.

The Secretary's RAISE Award, an aviation innovation challenge, asks the best and brightest minds from American high schools, colleges, and universities to help us manage our limited airspace more safely and efficiently, and this year's winning submission from USAF Lieutenant Kyle Smith promises to do exactly that.

In fact, the airborne collision avoidance system Lt. Smith proposed last year while he was a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is so promising, it's already being put through its paces at the Federal Aviation Administration's Hughes Technical Center.

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Thanks to a new report, we know that transit can plan an increasingly important role in connecting people to these opportunities.  Today, the American Public Transportation Association announced its latest data indicating that the number of transit passenger trips taken in 2013 was 10.7 billion, the highest in more than 50 years. It’s good news that will help meet our transportation needs today and into the future.

But as Secretary Foxx reminded APTA members this morning, the nation’s existing transit capacity and state of good repair are insufficient to meet growing demand.  That's why President Obama's 4-year transportation proposal includes a boost in transit investment funded by pro-growth business tax reform...

To watch the Secretary's remarks, click the image below.
Screen capture from C-Span video of Secretary Foxx at A.P.T.A.

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