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.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama committed to a Year of Action in which he would do what he can to expand opportunity for all so that every American can get ahead and have a shot at creating a better life for their kids. As part of that, he promised to set "new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump."
Today, the President followed up on that promise by setting the timetable for the Administration's second round of fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy vehicles, which will bolster energy security, cut carbon pollution, and support manufacturing innovation, all while saving businesses and consumers money.
As a result, DOT and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by March of next year, with the new greenhouse gas standards--covering the 2018 model year and beyond--becoming final by March 2016...
President Obama makes today's heavy-truck fuel efficiency announcement at a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, MD. Photo is courtesy of Getty Images.
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...
The U.S. maritime industry continues to become greener each day as federal agencies, research centers, and ports work to reduce the industry's impact on our environment. Industry stakeholders understand how green business practices can significantly improve their bottom line while also helping ensure healthier waterways and port communities as well as a healthier workplace for maritime workers.
That’s why the Maritime Administration is partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratories to explore the potential cost savings and emissions reductions through the use of hydrogen fuel cells to provide electrical power to ships at berths. This approach has the potential to offer a double bonus--first, allowing vessel operators to shut down diesel engines while in port, and second, using hydrogen fuel cells instead of carbon-based electrical power sources...
We've had plenty of unusual winter weather this year--from the warm weather in Alaska to the Polar Vortex sweeping the country to yet another strong winter storm today disrupting the Southeast, Mid Atlantic and New England, it's been anything but ordinary. And in Massena, NY, home of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, it’s been downright cold.
But when I visited Massena last Friday to see the winter asset maintenance work on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, I was impressed--despite the chilly temperatures, strong winds, and plentiful snow, I didn’t hear one complaint about the weather.
At FTA, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has become one of our favorite places to talk about. Why? Because in the last 30 years, Dallas has gone from zero miles to the most miles of light rail in operation, anywhere in North America. We can add to that growth the accompanying billions of dollars in economic activity, the tens of thousands of jobs it has created , and the increased property values brought about by expanding transit in North Texas.
So, if a conference I attended last week called "Texans Do Use Transit" seems like a pipe dream, it's not. Texans do use transit. It's a fact--known and measurable. And in addition to using transit to get to jobs, medical services and other destinations, North Texas is using its investment in transit to boost economic growth. Texans don’t just use transit, they thrive on it. And not just in Dallas; transit expansion is also happening right now in San Antonio, El Paso, Brownsville, and Houston...
Increasing the participation of minority- and women-owned businesses in the transportation industry invites diverse backgrounds and new approaches that can help contractors build better projects. And we've been working hard to help those businesses break through the extra barriers they may face.
If you read yesterday's blog post on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge between Illinois and Missouri, then you know we've had some success. Because in his post, Secretary Foxx emphasized the success of the 117 different Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (or DBEs) that earned contracts totaling $114 million on that project, including one DBE that helped save $1 million in total project costs.
We think that outcome is something to celebrate. But we know that our work is far from finished. And that's why today we are taking a key step toward increasing the effectiveness of DOT's DBE program by consolidating the various threads of that program under a single coordinating office. It might sound like a small change, but it makes a big difference to the DBEs interested in working on DOT-funded projects.
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...
On Saturday, I helped cut the ribbon on a new bridge in St. Louis that spans the Mississippi River. It’s called the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge--named in honor of our nation's heroes and after one of the Midwest’s greatest sports legends--and with good reason.
Early in his career, Stan Musial was a pitcher who’d injured his throwing arm. And, as legend has it, the St. Louis Cardinals were going to release him until the team’s legendary GM, Branch Rickey heard about it.
“Don’t let him go,” Rickey said, “Put him in the outfield, and let’s see if he can hit.”
Twenty-two seasons and more than 3,600 hits later, Branch Rickey had his answer. Stan “The Man” Musial could hit.
In no small measure, what Rickey did for Stan Musial gets at the heart of what this new bridge will do for the people, and the companies, of the St. Louis area: It gives them a chance to succeed...