At 6:12 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, a fire underneath an Atlanta I-85 bridge was reported to authorities. By 7 p.m. the bridge had collapsed.
Astonishingly, despite this incredible event happening during rush hour to one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, there were no major injuries reported. President Donald Trump and Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao this week credited Atlanta’s first responders with ensuring the public’s safety that day and thanked many of them in person at the White House for their heroic efforts.
Seventy-four tribes were part of a $9 million award this week that will support 77 road safety projects in 22 states. The funds, which come from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)'s Tribal Transportation Program Safety Fund (TTPSF) are dedicated to improving transportation safety on tribal lands that are statistically some of the most hazardous in the nation because of poor physical condition and other factors. Congress created TTPSF in 2013 in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act to improve highway safety on tribal roads and other transportation facilities.
Today, we commemorate the anniversary of a legendary event in our nation’s history: The Great Locomotive Chase.
The Civil War
On this day in 1862, exactly one year after the Civil War began at Fort Sumter, Union civilian agent James Andrews led a raid deep into Confederate territory to destroy the railroad line between Atlanta and Chattanooga. The Western & Atlantic Railroad (W&A) line was targeted because it was a critical lifeline for the western Confederate armies. Just as railroads today serve a vital role in our nation’s transportation network, so did the W&A. Destroying the railroad line would prevent the Confederacy from re-supplying and holding Chattanooga, a strategic location against advancing Union forces.
Every day, millions of people travel by bus throughout the United States. We at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) want to ensure that all of those passengers arrive safely to their destinations and travel safely back home.
FMCSA – along with our federal, state and local partners across the country – is conducting the 2017 National Passenger Safety Initiative. The objectives of this coordinated enforcement effort are to: Remove unsafe buses and drivers from our roadways; improve passenger carrier safety compliance; and increase public awareness of commercial motor vehicle safety.
Drivers know about the dangers of drunk driving and driving without a seat belt. Unfortunately, a relatively new danger has crept into the nation’s driving habits: distracted driving.
In 2015, distracted driving killed 3,477 people and injured 391,000.
Transportation becomes even more important when communities are struggling to recover from natural disasters and catastrophic failures. Federal support is often key to getting highways and bridges back up and running again. People often rely on these vital links in order to go about their daily lives. Businesses also need them to move their goods and reach customers.
The $768.2 million provided under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief (ER) program announced this week has helped restore broken transportation links in 40 state spanning the country from Alaska to Florida, including national parks and forests and other federal lands. These funds can be used to repair damaged roads and bridges that are results of severe weather and other events not related to weather—but that are equally as catastrophic.
As many people know, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao began her career as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration, which is one reason we were happy she spoke this week at the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) conference.
At the Maritime Administration we share the Secretary’s conviction that a healthy port infrastructure is important to the U.S. economy. Ships, after all, carry $1.5 trillion of U.S. foreign trade, and there are nearly 400,000 jobs associated with the U.S. commercial shipbuilding and repair industry.
Yesterday, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was joined by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety advocates yesterday to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 3-7).
National Work Zone Awareness Week, sponsored each year at the beginning of construction season by federal, state and local transportation officials – along with several partners including the American Traffic Safety Services Association and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – raises awareness of safety measures taken on roads all over the country. As a part of that awareness, today is national “Go Orange Day.” Those you see wearing orange are showing their support for highway workers and their afety, and reminding us all to drive carefully through their workplaces.
Shortly after I was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation, I asked that the official blog name be changed from “FAST Lane” to something else. With the distressing news that traffic injuries and fatalities have increased in recent years, it seemed to me that we should move away from a title associated with speeding. An e-mail went out to all USDOT employees soliciting ideas for a new name and many excellent suggestions were received – so many it was hard to choose just one.
But one did stand out: “Connections.”
“Connections” is an apt choice for USDOT as America’s multi-modal nationwide transportation system hinges on connections -- between flights, trains, buses, to name a few modes of travel. And this blog is all about connecting with people, internally at USDOT and with the public we serve. So I’m delighted with the name change and would like to thank everyone who participated in this group effort!
April is National Safe Digging Month. Careless digging poses a threat to people, pipelines and other underground facilities, so in April, we highlight the importance of safe digging to remind homeowners and contractors about the dangers that reckless digging can cause.
Each year, damage to underground facilities results in incidents that include injuries and fatalities. To help ensure your safety, you are required to call 811—a toll-free, one-call notification center—48 to 72 hours before beginning any excavation or digging projects. By calling 811, you can verify the location of any underground facilities in and around your excavation site, such as hazardous liquid and natural gas pipelines, telecommunications systems, electrical utilities, sewer pipelines and water pipelines.
Fifty years ago, on April 1, 1967, USDOT opened its doors, consolidating under one roof the operations of 31 separate transportation-related entities. This week, we hosted at USDOT an “open house” to commemorate the Department’s 50th anniversary, celebrate USDOT’s achievements, and reaffirm our commitment to addressing the challenges of today and advancing the best possibilities for the future.
Over 500 people gathered together in the atrium, including former Secretaries of Transportation Elizabeth Dole, Mary Peters and Norm Mineta, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee John Thune, Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Michael Sacco, president of the Seafarers International Union of North America/AFL-CIO, other distinguished guests, friends from the Department of Labor and USDOT colleagues.
The occasion was enhanced by the presence of transportation icons (vintage cars, a semi-truck, motorcycle), reminders of our core safety mission (crash test dummies) and examples of cutting-edge transportation technology (including autonomous vehicles and a drone). It was a festive, informative and inspiring event. It was also a formal kickoff to my tenure as the Secretary of Transportation, which could be characterized as a career “full circle,” as my first full-time job in public service was with USDOT.
I’m as excited by the mission and potential of USDOT today as when I first walked in the door at the old Nassif Building headquarters. I am joined in this can-do spirit by my dedicated colleagues at USDOT. With infrastructure improvement at the forefront of this administration, USDOT is well-positioned to help do great things for our country!
Speakers at the USDOT 50th Anniversary Celebration & Welcoming Ceremony: Rep. Bill Shuster - Chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Michael Sacco – President of the Seafarers International Union of North America/AFL-CIO, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, former Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. U.S. Senator John Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, delivered the opening remarks and then had to rush back to the Senate to preside over the confirmation hearing of Jeffrey Rosen, the President’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Transportation.
In 2015, approximately one person died in a motor vehicle crash every 15 minutes. That terrifying statistic underscores the need for game-changing technology that can help save lives.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research shows that 94 percent of all crashes are tied to a human error, which means these deaths are highly preventable. To help drive this number down, NHTSA has been working tirelessly to promote new vehicle technologies that have the potential to help prevent crashes and save thousands of lives every year. You can purchase these technologies in many new cars today—but only if you know about them.
NHTSA wants you to be fully informed when it comes to new vehicle safety technology, so we’ve teamed up with self-described science and technology champion Adam Savage to test and explain the value of each of these. Now at Tested.com, Savage was part of the original duo that 10 years ago created and fronted Discovery Channel’s MythBusters to educate and entertain millions of viewers around the world.
City planners, elected officials, scholars and residents for the first time ever this month gained access to comprehensive aircraft and road noise inventory data that will help them design infrastructure, create policy and conduct research.
The data are presented on the National Transportation Noise Map, a project from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). Interested groups and individuals can access the map to view both national and county-level data about potential exposure to aviation and Interstate highway noise.
America’s small businesses continue to help the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) address some of the nation’s biggest transportation challenges through the Department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. On March 20, the US DOT SBIR program announced 15 recommendations for awards for SBIR’s fiscal year (FY) 17.1 solicitation. The awarded small businesses are conducting important research, leading to new technologies in addressing some of US DOT’s most pressing challenges such as broken rail detection, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) detection devices, and information tools for transit users.
Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao has five sisters. Her parents taught all of their daughters to set goals and to proceed step-by-step to advance their situations in life.
“My parents were incredible people who believed that their daughters could do anything they wanted in this wonderful country which offered so much opportunity,” she told hundreds of U.S. Department of Transportation employees listening both remotely and in person today at the 2017 US DOT Women’s History Month celebration.
On Elizabeth Dole’s first day at Harvard Law School in in the early 1960s, a male classmate asked her a question.
“Elizabeth, what are you doing here? What are you doing in this law school?” he said. “Don’t you realize there are men who would give their right arm to be here, men who would use their legal education?”
Dole was one of 24 women in a class of 550.
Each summer, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warn of the dangers of heatstroke when a child is left alone in a hot vehicle. Yet, every year, tragedies strike. Last year, heatstroke killed 39 kids. This year, before spring has even arrived—we’ve already lost two children.
These preventable deaths happen in even the most loving families. It’s not because parents are intentionally leaving children behind. Most often, it happens when parents are in a hurry or caregivers driving the child are not used to the routine and a child is mistakenly left in a vehicle. Sometimes, it’s as simple as a child playing around an unattended car and locking themselves in the car.
I had the distinct honor this week of joining colleagues at the St. Lambert Lock in Montreal to celebrate the beginning of the St. Lawrence Seaway’s 59th navigation season.
Along with Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation President and CEO Terence Bowles and many others, I watched this season’s first ship, CSL St-Laurent, begin its journey into the Seaway System to pick up a load of grain. The movement of CSL St-Laurent and the hundreds of cargo vessels along the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System this year will support more than 227,000 jobs and $35 billion in economic activity.
U.S. airlines set new records in 2016 for the number of passengers carried, for the distance they carried those passengers and for the capacity that the airlines used to move them, according to numbers released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). It was the second consecutive year that the airlines set all-time highs.
In 2016, for the first year ever, U.S. airlines carried more than 800 million scheduled service passengers – reaching 823 million worldwide, 3.1 percent more than the 798 million they carried in 2015. Using the measure of revenue passenger-miles (RPMs), which includes both the number of passengers and the distance they travel, U.S. airline operations grew even more – with 933 billion RPMs, up 3.5 percent from 2015.
For more than 300 years people have celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with feasts, parades and festivals. The holiday is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival, and this weekend the tradition continues.
Unfortunately, with celebration sometimes comes excess and dangerous situations, particularly in this case drunk and buzzed driving. Drunk driving killed 10,265 people in 2015. During the St. Patrick’s Day holiday alone it claimed 30 lives.
To raise awareness about staying safe this holiday weekend, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration on Thursday hosted a Twitter chat to help celebrants stay safe.