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Another section of Interstate 11 opened this month in Boulder City, Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. The Nevada Department of Transportation in partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada are to be commended for completing the construction of the first phase of I-11. 

The Federal Highway Administration supported this outstanding project with nearly $400 million in federal funding.

It’s an exemplary project in supporting many of our goals, including enhanced safety, less congestion and more efficient movement of freight. 

The project’s benefits at the local level include removing truck traffic from Boulder City while providing truck operators an alternate and more direct route around the city, but I-11 overall is a regionally significant project.

It marks the first step in connecting Las Vegas and Phoenix – the country’s two largest metropolitan communities not currently linked by an interstate highway. These are the only two cities in the nation with populations of more than one million people that are not connected by interstate.

Although there is more work is ahead before completing the link -  Motorists commuting between Las Vegas and Arizona will get some congestion relief now that this first 15-mile portion of I-11 is open to traffic.

I-11 also supports one of the FHWA’s infrastructure goals by not only improving mobility and accessibility – but also stimulating economic growth, productivity and competitiveness. Travel and commerce between Arizona and Nevada will be easier and the region’s economic competitiveness will be enhanced.

Interstate 11 Grand Opening near Las Vegas, Nevada

A new stretch of Interstate 11 opens in Boulder City, Nevada

Continue Reading Another Stretch of America ››
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For decent people, it is unbelievable to learn that in this day and age something so horrible as slavery still exists.  But that’s what “human trafficking” is and it is happening all over the world, including America.  Human trafficking encompasses victims of forced labor and sexual exploitation coerced or deceived into jobs that they can’t leave.  It is happening in rural and urban areas across our country.  It could well be occurring in your own zip code.  Of particular relevance to DOT, America’s roadways, railways, airways, and waterways are being used to facilitate this trafficking in human beings – adults and children.

At the Department of Transportation, initiatives are underway to increase awareness of human trafficking and equip transportation industry employees and the public with strategies to fight it.  Every mode collaborates with the private sector and federal, state, and local transportation stakeholders through our Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking (TLAHT) initiative to engage industry leaders, train transportation industry employees, and provide public awareness materials. We train our 55,000 DOT employees, and work with Federal agencies and NGOs to ensure a suite of human trafficking awareness trainings tailored for the aviation, rail, motor coach, trucking and transit industries are available.  Together, we are training flight attendants, truck drivers, train conductors, bus drivers, and other transportation employees to recognize and report human trafficking.

The Department of Transportation is ensuring that truck drivers using a commercial vehicle to commit human trafficking permanently lose their commercial license.  We are also establishing a Federal advisory committee to identify and share best practices in combating this crime across the transportation industry.  And on the international front, we have secured commitments from over 50 transportation ministries to continue working on this issue around the globe. 

It is going to take a sustained, concerted effort to make headway against human trafficking.  Transportation leaders: your help is needed, because all forms of transportation are being used to traffick people.  Truck stops, sea ports, airports, bus terminals, rail stations, and other transportation hubs can help by training employees and displaying public service announcements.  Public awareness is key to identifying and reporting human trafficking.  Each tip may make the difference in saving someone's life. 

So please, join us in this effort by signing the TLAHT pledge, issuing a leadership statementtraining your employees, and conducting public awareness campaigns. 

Together, we can help put an end to the inhumanity of human trafficking.

Secretary Chao portrait and Human Trafficking Quote

Continue Reading Put the Brakes on Human ››
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Today, I joined Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Lewis and other state and local officials in Denver for the groundbreaking of the I-70 reconstruction project or “Central 70,” as it’s referred to locally.

For anyone working, living in or visiting Denver, Central 70 is going to be a really, REALLY, big deal.

How big?

$1.2 billion big. That includes a $416 million loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program, $114 million in Private Activity Bonds allocated by DOT, and $50 million in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds from the Federal Highway Administration.

It’s the biggest project CDOT has ever undertaken.

And it’s being delivered using CDOT’s biggest public-private partnership (P3) to date.

If all goes according to plan, the P3 -- Kiewit Meridiam Partners, CDOT’s High Performance Transportation Enterprise and the Colorado Bridge Enterprise – will bring several big benefits.

For starters, Colorado isn’t just rebuilding a section of I-70. It’s future-proofing road travel in Denver on the busiest route in the state, by adding intelligent transportation system infrastructure that will help accommodate autonomous vehicles in the years ahead.

The project will cut commute times for thousands of area drivers every day and add managed lanes in each direction along ten miles of I-70. That’ll bring a big sigh of relief for travelers anxious to get to Denver International Airport on time.

Colorado DOT Central 70 Project Ground Breaking

(U.S. Department of Transportation's Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye Hendrickson participates in the groundbreaking ceremony for Colorado Department of Transportation's (CDOT) Central 70 project.)

Continue Reading CDOT's Central 70 is a ››
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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) gathers data on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to understand how the U.S. highway system is being used. But it’s also important to know how the system is performing.

FHWA turned to economists at the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Volpe Center to develop a statistic that would provide insight on national roadway performance. Volpe estimated vehicle-hours traveled (VHT) based on speed and miles traveled data to measure the quality of service that America’s roadways provide.

Highway performance matters because our time matters. Time is a non-renewable resource, and it is a significant economic cost of traveling and shipping.

Developing America’s Travel Time Data

Volpe Center economists developed VHT by first obtaining vehicle counts for thousands of road segments from the FHWA Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS).

Then, the Volpe economists allocated daily car and truck travel on each segment by hour of the day and direction. And they match hourly speeds, measured by GPS, to each HPMS section.

Finally, they calculated VHT for cars and trucks during each hour of the day—hourly vehicle miles traveled divided by hourly average speed. Learn more about how Volpe developed VHT.

Distribution Factors by Hour of Day data chart by USDOT Volpe Center

Continue Reading Estimating Vehicle Hours of ››
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Merchant mariner numbers may be at a low in the U.S., but the men and women of the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) have increased their operating days by 245% from Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 to FY 2017.

This year’s missions have included some of the largest ammunition movements since the Vietnam War – which the RRF crane ships are exceptionally cut out for; unit resupply to various theaters around the world, and movement of rotating forces including supporting the Canadian military. The Aviation Maintenance Ship SS Wright even received flight deck certification for the MV-22 Osprey aircraft – further increasing its capability and capacity to support the Department of Defense. 

To sum up – in fiscal Year 2017 there were about 345 operating days (days away from layberth) for RRF vessels on cargo missions, exercises, and FEMA mission assignments.  In 2016 there were around 100 operating days for RRF vessels on missions and exercises. 2018 is on track to match, if not surpass, 2017.

From 2002 to June of 2008, 118 ship activations were called for in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. In that period, there were 13,575 ship operating days with a reliability rate of 99.0%. Almost 25% of the initial equipment needed to support the U.S. Armed Forces operations in Iraq was moved by the RRF. By comparison, Military Sealift Command’s combined sealift fleet of Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off (RO/RO) and Fast Sealift Ships carried 29% of the cargo required for the invasion.        

The RRF provides significant cost savings to the Department of Defense by maintaining shipping capacity in a reduced operating status until needed. These vessels also provide maximum flexibility to an already thinly-stretched Navy. In 2014, the RRF vessel Cape Ray was converted into a floating Incinerator for the safe destruction of the most dangerous chemical warfare materials in Syria’s declared chemical weapons arsenal. The historic mission supported the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) in neutralizing almost 600 tons of declared chemical weapons, and that same vessel is still active today, carrying military cargo and supporting a U.S. Army Logistics-Over-the-Shore (LOTS) exercise overseas.

Ready Reserve Force Vessel Cape Ray

Ready Reserve Force Vessel Cape Ray on the historic mission that supported the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to neutralize chemical weapons.

Continue Reading Ready Reserve Force Vessels ››
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Transit employees working on various projects

As part of an Administration-wide effort to speed investments in transportation infrastructure and reduce potentially duplicative or unnecessarily burdensome requirements, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) changed its reporting requirements and streamlined its oversight process for transit agencies. FTA announced those streamlining changes as part of the recent Federal Register Notice on fiscal year 2018 apportionments.

Over the last year, FTA staff reviewed regulations and guidance documents to ensure they are straightforward, clear and designed to minimize burden on grant applicants. In a continued effort to review its processes, FTA is hosting an online dialogue to collect public input on the current definition of a “federal project” and how that may impact the timely and effective implementation of transit projects. A federal project typically requires grant applicants to complete many phases or elements for capital projects with requirements ranging from those enacted under the National Environmental Policy Act to regulations for Metropolitan and Statewide Transportation Planning, Procurement and Buy America.

In the “What is a Federal Project?” online dialogue, FTA seeks input from state departments of transportation, transit agencies, transit operators and other interested parties on how a federal definition affects project delivery. The dialogue also solicits ideas to improve the process of deciding when a project or project element is subject to federal requirements and whether those requirements should apply to phases that are not supported with federal funds. The online dialogue will be open from July 16 to August 17.

As a part of its recent review of regulations, FTA considered input from stakeholders via comments to a U.S. DOT docket regarding regulatory review.  

As part of its streamlining activities, FTA reduced the frequency that grant recipients are required to submit reports.  Under the new policy, grants of $2 million or less in urbanized areas over 200,000 in population should be reported annually rather than quarterly unless a specific risk is identified. That will reduce approximately 13,000 reports per year.

FTA also increased the threshold for property appraisals associated with transit projects, from $500,000 to $1 million, which will reduce submissions by 20 percent and save about 50 weeks of agency review time.

Continue Reading Building on Streamlining ››
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With over 222 million licensed drivers in the United States – nearly double the 112 million licensed drivers in 1970 – adherence to traffic safety laws is more important than ever.  Also vital are local, state and federal safety campaigns such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) “Share the Roads” initiative to increase driver awareness of other road users, such as pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists. 

The advent of social media enables everyone with a concern for road safety to amplify their concerns to fellow drivers.  One of the more remarkable examples of such safety advocacy is a YouTube video created by and starring an Indiana State Trooper, Sargent John Perrine.  Sargent Perrine created the video to encourage drivers to deploy one of the most fundamental, and underused, safety devices on cars:  the turn signal.  Sargent Perrine’s video has been viewed over 15 million times.

Continue Reading Turn Signals - Common Sense ››
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I was honored to be present in South Philadelphia on June 30 to witness the christening of the largest container ship ever built in the United States. It was built by Philly Shipyards for shipping company, Matson, Inc., and was named for the former Hawaii senator, war hero, and long-standing maritime champion Daniel K. Inouye.

At a time when the U.S. maritime industry is fighting to keep its place among international competitors, this event was a momentous occasion. Built for the Hawaii trade, the Inouye represents the blending of the most advanced technologies with proven American shipbuilding skills and was constructed, fittingly, in Philadelphia. Philadelphia has a 300-year legacy as a major center of maritime industrial commerce and serves as a vital economic engine for the entire region, including South Jersey, which is where I hail from.

Once merely an early colonial port settlement, Philadelphia was transformed by the maritime industry into one of the nation’s largest cities boasting a formidable complex of shipping companies, terminals, port facilities, and private and public shipyards.  In that founding generation, “American-built” and “American-crewed” ships meant freedom, independence, and economic and military successes for a young nation. That meaning has not changed to this day.

Christening of the Inouye Containership

On Saturday, nearly fourteen months later, the 850-foot long, 3,600 TEU* Aloha Class vessel (the largest container ship ever built in the United States) was christened the Daniel K. Inouye. Senator Inouye received the Medal of Honor in World War II and in 1962 was elected to the United States Senate, where for 50 years he advocated for the American maritime industry.

Continue Reading The Inouye: The Largest ››
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Historians agree that roads were one of the first human innovations that led to a “civilized” world. Communities emerged at crossroads where paths and trails intersected. In time, those routes became wider and better maintained to ensure uninterrupted commerce and travel. Centuries ago, the ancient Romans positioned stones at key points along these early roads, offering travelers navigational assistance. These stones were early mile markers – milestones, in the most literal sense of the word – to inform travelers of their progress.

Those early travelers might enjoy knowing that, even in the 21st century, people continue to rely on milestones. For example, today is the 62nd anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act – signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower – which gave the United States a national network of interstate highways. Nearly 222 million drivers depend on this road system every day, traveling more than 3 trillion miles each year. It is an incredible feat of engineering and continues to serve the American people by keeping them safe and our economy strong.

This month also marks the eighth anniversary of FHWA’s “Every Day Counts” initiative, which represents a milestone in innovation. For nearly a decade, it has inspired state and local governments to adopt cutting-edge technologies and practices – from warm-mix asphalt to drones – in their ongoing quest to save lives, shorten project delivery, improve overall quality and minimize cost to the taxpayer. Since the program’s inception, each state has used 14 or more of the 43 EDC innovations, and some states have adopted more than 30. EDC has become quite the on-ramp to innovation, and we are very proud of its successes. This year is no exception. After receiving 160 suggestions and comments for the fifth round of EDC, we identified 10 truly exceptional innovations that will help drivers, workers and taxpayers alike. From project bundling to crowdsourcing to advanced computer modeling, I encourage you to check it out at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_5/.

FHWA’s academic research journal “Public Roads” will hit a major milestone when it turns 100 years old next month. This magazine has spent a century quietly enriching the scientific community on nearly every transportation topic possible, from the advent of cars to robotic bridge inspectors and nanotechnology. We look forward to shining the spotlight on one of the U.S. government's most important but least-known publications. A litany of safety improvements and innovations that have taken Americans from the horse and buggy to driverless cars have all been chronicled in this one amazing magazine for 100 years.

Milestones like these are no different than their ancient Roman counterparts: they help us see how much progress we have made, and ensure that we are heading in the right direction.  I hope you’ll join me in wishing a happy birthday to the U.S. interstate system, to EDC and to Public Roads. For everyone at the FHWA, this is a summer of milestones.

 Kansas City-area highway project was one of many milestones for the nation’s interstate system

This Kansas City-area highway project was one of many milestones for the nation’s interstate system, which was born June 29, 1956.

Continue Reading A Summer of Milestones ››
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If you are a transportation practitioner working for a local or tribal government and want to improve your construction, maintenance, and material selection processes and projects, FHWA and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials have some fantastic news. Earlier this month, FHWA and AASHTO finalized an agreement that will provide local and tribal transportation professionals with free access to the AASHTO TC3 library.

AASHTO TC3 provides over 120 courses and some of the best online training available anywhere. AASHTO’s goal with TC3 is to create and maintain a fully optimized curriculum to respond to the changing needs of the transportation technical workforce. Courses provided by TC3 are developed through a collaboration of national best practices and a network of knowledgeable subject matter experts.  

In providing financial support in order to give tribal and local government employees the ability to access AASHTO’s TC3 library, FHWA is advancing the mission of its Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS): providing training and technical assistance to local government and tribal transportation practitioners across the United States.

To browse and access TC3 course offerings, go to https://tc3.transportation.org/.  To learn more about CLAS, a part of FHWA’s Office of Innovative Program Delivery, go to https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovativeprograms/centers/local_aid/.

AASHTO TC3 webpage layout

(AASHTO TC3 training course home page)

Continue Reading FHWA and AASHTO Team Up to ››
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