We’re here today to deal with a very, very serious problem.
To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society. And it seems to be getting worse every year.
This trend distresses me deeply, both on a personal level, and as the nation’s chief executive for transportation safety.
So today, we’re kicking off a two-day summit that’s going to look at this deadly epidemic from every angle.
We’re bringing together top experts in safety, transportation research, regulatory affairs, and law enforcement to help us identify, target, and tackle the fundamental elements of this problem.
We're including a panel of teens and young adults because this obviously affects them, and their perspective and ideas are important to changing the behavior of their peers.This morning, I met with several men and women who have suffered as a result of accidents caused by distracted driving. These are people, not statistics. And I'm so proud of them for participating in today's summit, sharing their stories, and reminding everyone how much is at stake here, how much can be lost when a driver's attention is distracted for even a second.
I'm just really looking forward to this summit and the wide ranging expertise of our panelists.
The media have done a great job of raising awareness of the valuable work we're trying to do here. We've got our own team live-blogging the events as they happen on this page. We've got a live webcast that will feature not only a video/audio stream but the speakers' slides as well. And that same webcast allows people from all over the country to submit questions to our experts.
It's an extraordinary coming together, but it's an extraordinarily serious epidemic. Let's all buckle up and get ready to do something about it together.
The Juniata shop has done terrific job in pushing the envelope to get one of the first battery-powered locomotive engines in the country up and running. Today, I toured the shop in Altoona, Pennsylvania, with Congressman Bill Shuster as Norfolk Southern unveiled the latest in alternative energy locomotive technology.
On Thursday, I spoke to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council. They had convened to ratify their 25-year transportation plan for the region. The Council's plan, "A Shared Vision for a Shared Future," gets it right.
How do they get it right?
Beyond the plan, the region is taking other steps. For example, New York is sprouting new bike paths and new open spaces, like the pedestrian mall at Times Square.
There’s a theme emerging here, which is that the New York region is not afraid to experiment, to think outside the box, to envision a future of enhanced mobility with less congestion, less pollution, and less sprawl.
This is consistent with the Obama Administration's "Livable Communities" initiative, which I have discussed often on these pages.
What a disappointment this morning when I picked up USA Today.
Most people know that numbers and reporters don’t mix and this is an excellent case in point.
By USA Today’s own measure, counties with the worst roads are getting close to $10 for every dollar spent in all the other counties in the country. And, of the nearly 1 million roads in the federal highway system, the data used by USA Today only covers 22% of those roads. Hmmm.
Unfortunately, this biased report has missed the boat completely. We are getting money quickly out the door to areas of the country that need it most and for roads and bridges in the worst shape.
We have a couple important goals for this money. It’s being used to fix our crumbling infrastructure. But it’s also the key to putting thousands of people back to work in good-paying jobs. As I’ve traveled across the country, I’ve met workers who were unemployed before these projects came along.
And for cash-strapped states, the money is helping to take care of roads and bridges in need of repair that might not get fixed without it. To me, that’s a good story worth telling.
I am absolutely thrilled today to have been invited to join the delegation going to Copenhagen to try and win a bid for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. Absolutely.
Thank you, President and Mrs. Obama, for this honor.
I will be busting with pride to help support an Olympic bid for a city that I--and many other Obama Administration officials--believe will make a fantastic host.
With Mrs. Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Chicago media icon Oprah Winfrey, among others, we ought to field a pretty good team.
It's an easy sell; Chicago offers the Olympics the complete package: great transportation, great facilities, great food, and--most of all--great people.
And for Chicago to host this event will be a blessing for the entire state.
So, yes, I am fired up for this mission, and I will do my absolute best to represent Chicago and the Great State of Illinois.
On Wednesday afternoon I addressed the Council on Competitiveness National Energy Summit & International Dialogue.
I was cheered to here Senator Mark Warner precede me at the Summit by reminding everyone that energy transformation is not a burden; rather, it is an opportunity. Transforming America's energy use will be a huge jobs creator and wealth creator for the next 25 years.
Now, the transportation sector accounts for nearly 1/3 of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, more than 50% of nitrogen oxide emissions, and almost 75% of our petroleum consumption. We need to change that profile-–and soon.
This will give the transportation sector the flexibility to work out the best combination of new technologies, new energy sources, and better operating procedures to efficiently and effectively reduce emissions while meeting the transportation needs of all Americans.
Our bottom line is clear. We need to keep our economy moving, and keep America growing and innovating-–but we’ve got to find new, more sustainable ways of doing it.
Look, we’re talking about transforming this country in ways we have not considered in a very long time. But, as Senator Warner said, that's a good thing. And, we don't exactly have a choice; our ability to compete and sustain our quality of life really depends on it.
I can promise that this DOT is--and will be--doing its part.
I went to Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday to let folks know that--through the Recovery Act--the Obama Administration was helping the people of central Ohio upgrade their bus and paratransit services. I also had the opportunity to talk about one or two other items, which I encourage you to read about at the Columbus Dispatch.
With Governor Ted Strickland, Mayor Michael Coleman, US Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, and COTA DIrector and CEO Bill Lohta, I toured the Central Ohio Transit Authority's Fields Avenue fixed route bus facility.
Even better, the completed project is expected to bring LEED certification to the Fields Avenue facility. COTA is also building a new separate paratransit facility with $4.2 million in Recovery Act funding, and that project is expected to be LEED certified as well.
Combined with the wellness center, I think this really shows how transit is leading America's progress toward a true 21st century economy.
Thanks to the Recovery Act, bus service in Columbus is going to be greener, more efficient, and safer than ever. A fully modernized, state-of-the-art maintenance facility and brand new paratransit center will ensure that commuters, elderly residents, and people with disabilities who depend on the bus can expect more reliable service than ever.
I've said it before, and I'll gladly say it again: the Recovery Act is making a real difference in cities like Columbus--putting people to work during these tough economic times while making long-term investments in local transportation infrastructure is a win-win.
On Monday, I had a really productive day in Atlanta. I've already blogged about 2 of the events, but, at the risk of overexposing this great city, I'd like to add a third--at Spelman College, we announced a new program designed to get more women into transportation careers.
I think transportation is one of the most challenging and exciting industries in the country right now. And we’d love to see the women at Spelman and other colleges, high schools, or universities around the country become our transportation leaders for the 21st century and come work in the industry or at DOT.
So, Spelman and DOT are jointly managing the Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program, created to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology and help women in the field to achieve their goals.
We’d like more women to become air traffic controllers, highway engineers, transportation researchers, and safety planners-–to name just a few. These kinds of jobs are challenging; they pay well; and we think there's no reason women shouldn't find them very rewarding.
Now, Spelman College has long been a renowned institution, with quite a strong legacy, and I think the program is in pretty safe hands. This program is part of a broader effort, led by the White House, to ensure that federal programs and policies take into account the distinct needs and concerns of women and girls. So who better to partner with than a college that has been successfully educating young women since 1881.
It's true: women have not always been as well represented in transportation as we’d like. The good news is we’re working to change that.
As any reader of this blog knows, I've spent a lot of time this summer seeing firsthand the great projects Americans are undertaking to rebuild our infrastructure and get our people back to work.
But this afternoon, I was particularly pleased to present Atlanta's MARTA transit agency with a TIGGER grant for $10.8 million. Believe me when I say this is truly money that will be generating dividends for years to come.
As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Federal Transit Administration is awarding 43 Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction--TIGGER--grants. This $100 million is going to transit agencies that pursue cutting-edge environmental technologies to help reduce global warming,
MARTA will use its TIGGER award to outfit bus canopies at its Laredo bus maintenance facility with solar-paneled roofs. The solar roofs on these 220 stall will produce electricity for MARTA and sell the surplus clean energy back to Georgia Power! Folks, this promises to be the largest photo-voltaic (solar panel) installation in the entire state of Georgia.
MARTA benefits; the environment benefits--America benefits.
This is the future of transportation. This is exciting. This shows how investing in green transportation not only helps the planet, but creates jobs and strengthens our economy.
It also shows how much more we can do.
Congratulations, MARTA; this project is a fantastic idea. I can't wait to see that utility meter spinning backward!
It was a great pleasure to speak to the Atlanta Regional Commission this morning.
While I spent some time talking about the Recovery Act and stimulus success in Georgia transportation projects, I focused my remarks on the Obama Administration's Livable Communities Initiative and its relevance to the Atlanta region.Livable Centers Initiative since 1999, I may have been preaching to the choir.
In the Administration's Livable Communities program DOT, HUD, and EPA are working together, with the White House, to find ways to better coordinate and direct federal investments in transportation, housing, air quality, and water infrastructure.
And Atlanta already knows this. The 2009 Atlanta Regional Commission study of their Livable Centers Initiative shows a dramatic decline in the number of Vehicle Miles Traveled in communities that have coordinated land-use and transportation planning. Simply, the lower the Vehicle Miles Traveled, the more residents are able to get where they want to go without using their cars.
Now, I've talked about the importance of reducing miles traveled as a key part of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing carbon emissions. Residents of the Atlanta area's Livable Centers are able to do both while enjoying the convenience of public transportation options; of jobs and services closer to home; of wider, friendlier sidewalks, and safer crosswalks.
Going forward, livability will be a watchword of federal transportation policy. Given its recent honors--a 2008 EPA National Smart Growth Award and a 2009 American Planning Association National Planning Excellence Award--we need look no further than ARC's Livable Centers for successful examples of the kind of well-researched, coordinated infrastructure planning this Administration has in mind.
Yesterday, the Obama Administration's Livable Communities partners visited sites in Chicago and Dubuque that exemplify the sustainable qualities we've been advocating since March. Today, we've been touring sites in Denver as well.
Below, I'll elaborate on what we've seen and heard. But we've also been carrying a message from the Administration--
Working together, we’re going to do 3 things:
- Find ways to better coordinate and direct federal investments in transportation, housing, improved air quality, and water infrastructure;
- Help local communities advance local priorities for revitalizing and strengthening communities and transportation services; and
- Ensure that our federal grant and formula programs consider investments made by other federal agencies, state and local governments, and private and nonprofit organizations.
And we will do those things. We are determined to incorporate the principles of this partnership into every budget and every proposal.
What does livability look like?
It looks like West Garfield Park in Chicago; it looks like Dubuque, Iowa's, Historic Millwork District; and it looks like Denver's Lincoln Park.
In August, I announced we would convene a summit of safety experts to help us figure out a way to reduce distracted driving. This summit will give safety leaders from across the nation a forum to identify, target, and tackle the fundamental elements of this problem.
We've all observed the rise of this dangerous practice, so let's be clear:
We must act now to stop distracted driving from becoming a deadly epidemic on our nation's roadways.
The summit will bring together respected leaders for interactive sessions on data, research, technology, policy, and outreach. I'm excited by the number of professionals who have agreed to share their expertise with us, and I look forward to the day we can end this dangerous habit.
And, so anyone who's interested can attend the summit virtually, we're webcasting the sessions and allowing people to submit questions online to each panel. I think this is a great development, one that allows experts and the general public to come together on a very serious matter.
Folks, we need drivers' eyes and minds on the road. I hope this summit is a practical first step toward that goal.
Protecting airline consumers against unfair and deceptive practices is an important part of the Department Of Transportation's mission. So, hats-off to our Aviation Enforcement Office for doing just that.
Today, based on the Enforcement Office's findings, DOT fined Spirit Airlines $375,000 for various rule violations. This civil penalty is a record for these kinds of violations. The message should be clear:
We will continue to take enforcement action when airlines violate our rules.
Spirit bumped passengers from oversold flights but did not provide compensation or a written notice of passengers' rights to compensation--as required by DOT rules protecting consumers.
Spirit also failed to resolve baggage claims within a reasonable time. In one case, they took 14 months to provide traveler compensation. The airline provided compensation only for baggage on the outbound leg of round-trip flights. And, the airline refused to accept responsibility for missing laptops and other items Spirit had accepted as baggage.
Spirit also violated DOT rules requiring airfare ads to state the full price to be paid. The fares advertised omitted fees Spirit tacked onto base fares.
Spirit violated several other DOT consumer-protection rules, all-in-all leading to Enforcement Office review of complaints filed by consumers, inspections at airports, and a review of Spirit's records. The Office will follow-up its investigation in the coming year.
This kind of treatment of America's airline customers is not just a violation of rules; it's unacceptable. This DOT says passengers deserve better, and they will receive better.
Today, I spoke to the National Automobile Dealers of America and thanked them for participating in the single most successful short-term economic stimulus program in history.
By now, it's pretty clear that the Car Allowance Rebate System, or CARS program, succeeded beyond everyone's expectations, and we can all take pride in what we’ve accomplished. Working together, we have delivered the goods to provide a struggling economy with a significant boost.
That's not a bad list. But, in the process, we’ve also shown that when the federal government and the private sector team up to take bold action, the American public reaps the rewards. That's the kind of partnership I'd like to see more of.
As of this morning, 565,690 CARS vouchers have been paid. That means more than 70 percent of dealers have been paid already. This represents almost $2.4 billion paid or in the pipeline.
I’m enormously proud of the men and women at DOT. Not only did they help get the CARS program up and running in 30 days, but many of them have also worked around the clock to process applications and resolve the issues generated by such a huge response.
The CARS program has worked--it has worked for hard-working families, the local dealerships that serve them, and the domestic auto industry we all depend on.
So, again, a hearty "Thanks" to all of the auto dealers who partnered with us to keep America moving.
This is one of those days when I am so clearly reminded of why I joined this Administration.
Today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and I announced a proposed rule that would bring our nation a step closer to a future where the vehicles we drive help us solve our energy and environmental challenges, rather than contribute to them. The rule would establish a historic interagency program to improve vehicle fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gases.
Look, America simply cannot continue down this path of dependence on oil. It's not who we are. We must take control of our own energy destiny. And that is exactly what DOT and EPA propose to do. Putting millions more fuel-efficient cars, SUVs, and small trucks on the road is not just a matter of policy; it's a matter of this nation taking a huge--and long overdue--step forward toward energy independence.
Our proposal builds upon core principles President Obama announced with automakers, the United Auto Workers, leaders in the environmental community, governors and state officials in May. It would sensibly coordinate national vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards.
How do Americans benefit from this? The joint program would:
I’m fortunate for all the great employees we have here at the DOT, but today I want to single-out a 19-year Department veteran whose service has gone above and beyond the call of duty. Unfortunately, we’re soon losing him to the Department of State, but I hope his example continues to be a source of inspiration for all of us.
When Sam Nassif started out in FHWA’s Federal Lands division, he never imagined his career would take him to the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. But after more than ten years in the Federal Lands and Federal Aid divisions developing an expertise in emerging transportation technologies and building national transit systems at the Federal Transit Administration, Sam had established a reputation as one of the agency’s best and brightest. He also possessed the courage and leadership to contribute those talents in difficult times for our country.
In June of 2004, former Secretary Norman Mineta asked Sam to travel to the U.S. embassy in Iraq to assist the fragile Iraqi interim government rebuild their country. Over the next year and a half, Sam faced enormous obstacles to progress, working in wartime conditions with little resolve coming from Iraq’s temporary political leadership. Although it was tough, Sam was sustained by the knowledge he was improving life for Iraqis and making roads safer for American troops every day.
Shortly after Sam returned home from Iraq in 2005, disaster struck closer to home. Hurricane Katrina had leveled New Orleans, wiping out homes, businesses, and schools; halting critical public services; stranding residents; and leaving lives in tatters. In Katrina’s wake, Secretary Mineta once again called on Sam’s expertise to help New Orleans rebuild their transit system. Over the next two years, Sam worked day and night to get public transit up and running so that children could return to school, parents could go back to work, and life could begin to return to normal.
When Sam returned to Washington, DC in October 2007, he once again found himself being called on to aid U.S. efforts overseas. In early 2008, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) asked Sam to travel to Kabul, Afghanistan to help build up the nation’s rudimentary transportation system. When he arrived, only 5 percent of Afghanistan’s roads were paved, creating unsafe driving conditions for Afghanis and a major security concern for American troops. The poor road conditions are also a crippling barrier to improving commercial activity, and access to education and healthcare. Sam’s work over the following 18 months not only helped build up Afghanistan’s infrastructure, but it has undoubtedly saved lives and increased opportunities for Afghanis.
When I asked Sam how he dealt with the difficulties of his assignments, he said he constantly told himself, “We cannot fail.” He knew every day that the work he was doing was making roads safer for Afghanis and our troops, and he also saw a better future for the next generation of Afghani children. “Life can be grim if you have no hope,” he said, referring to Afghani children who would benefit from better access to schools, hospitals, and increased economic activity between cities.
Sam’s passion to make the future a brighter place for others around the world has led him to the State Department where he will continue advising on infrastructural development overseas. And although he looks forward to going abroad, he is quick to note that one part of him will always remain in DC – his daughter Jessica, a student George Mason University, who he proudly calls his “heart on two feet.”
From myself and the rest of the DOT, best of luck, Sam.
That's the enviable position I find myself in as the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) continues to come on-line.
Today, I was pleased to announce that, by the end of December, air traffic controllers will begin tracking aircraft flying over the Gulf of Mexico using one of NextGen's core technologies, ADS-B.
NextGen is really nothing less than a transformation of our National Airspace System. In a nutshell, the system transitions us from a ground-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based system using aviation-specific applications for existing technologies like GPS, new airport infrastructure, and new procedures. It is being hailed as the most important innovation in air traffic control since World War II.
Over the Gulf of Mexico, the satellite-based system fixes the problem of radar's 150-mile range constraint over large water bodies.
This allows air traffic controllers to see aircraft throughout their Gulf crossings. Which means that air traffic controllers no longer need to ensure a 100-mile buffer around aircraft traversing the Gulf. In turn, this allows more flights across the Gulf at the same time, adding badly needed capacity to the Gulf's commercial aviation network.
And this also allows the many helicopters servicing Gulf oil platforms to see the aircraft around them as well. Which means these helicopters are no longer constrained by the Visual Flight Rules that essentially ground helicopters in bad weather. With about 9,000 oil rigs in the Gulf being serviced by 5,000-9,000 flight operations a day, you can see how this system dramatically opens up low-altitude capacity.
Today, the Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics released July's Freight Transportation Services Index; it's up 1.6% from June.
Doesn't seem like much? Keep in mind that this is the first monthly rise since February and the largest increase since January 2008. And because the Freight TSI was level from May to June, this means 2 months in a row without a decline.
Freight shipping is increasing, and someone is buying that freight. Whether it's consumers buying goods or manufacturers buying parts or other companies buying supplies, we're talking about economic activity. The rise in the freight index for the first time since February is a sign that the economic recovery is beginning.
Between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the CARS--cash for clunkers--program, and other actions the Obama Administration has taken, I am hopeful that the economy is starting to turn around.
However, despite this tangible sign of progress, we all know that we still have a long way to go. At DOT, we will redouble our efforts to make sure that transportation projects continue to stimulate a reviving economy and that transportation infrastructure renewal facilitates a thriving 21st century economy.
I hope we can all greet this news as grounds for cautious optimism.
Folks, Child Passenger Safety Week begins this Saturday, and there really is only one message: Parents and caregivers, buckle up your children the right way on every ride.
This morning we kicked-off National Child Passenger Safety Week at the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Fireboat-house, hosted by Deputy Chief Kenneth Crosswhite. We went there because on Saturday, September 12, Chief Crosswhite and his department will hold one of thousands of Child Safety Seat Inspections taking place across America.
Why do we need Child Safety Seat Inspection stations? Because, of all the cargo transported in this country, there is none more precious than your children. And because three out of every four of those precious children are not properly fastened into safety seats. That's despite the best intentions of parents and caregivers.
The straps are not fastened tightly enough. The seat is not firmly attached to the vehicle. A young child is seated facing forward when he or she is still too young. Or worse, a child is not seated in a safety seat at all.
As a grandfather, I have some experience with this, and I know it takes patience. But, as Safe Kids reports, vehicle crashes are the leading killer of children ages 2 to 14, and these tragic losses are preventable. The safety technology is there; we just don't use it well enough.
So please, parents and caregivers, if you have any doubts at all about whether your infant, toddler, or child is in the right car seat-–or whether you’re buckling them up the right way-–don’t hesitate to get some help.
You can use our National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web service to locate an Inspection site near you this week. The technicians on-site know what they're doing, and in only a few minutes they'll help you get it right.
Can you really have anything more important to do this week?
Sometimes, I have to get local and give some time to the DOT--not as an instrument of policy or as a safety agency--but as a family of colleagues. This afternoon, it was a pleasure to help DOT's Employee Recreation Association launch Employee Appreciation Month at our own DOT store.
The DOT store supplies all things DOT-related, from sundries and office supplies to a nice array of mugs and caps proudly sporting our DOT logo. There are even some really nice golf shirts and fleece sweatshirts that make fine gifts. I'm a little disappointed not to see any Ray LaHood merchandise--authorized or unauthorized--but I've been assured it's on back-order.
all seriousness, the great thing about the DOT store is that some of the revenue stays in
the family, in our Employee Recreation Association. In turn,
the Rec. Association
helps support the
For those readers outside the federal government, the CFC is a huge fundraising drive in which federal employees are encouraged to donate to hundreds of non-profit organizations serving people across the country and around the world. Last year, DOT employees gave $1.5 million. Without the support of the Employee Recreation Association, we would not have achieved that milestone.
And without the DOT store, the Rec. Association could not provide that leadership.
So, many thanks to Min Yoon, the store's proprietor, and to Veronica Pannell, president of the Employee Recreation Association. Both of you are instrumental in helping DOT continue to raise the bar for CFC generosity and worklife quality in federal service.
Today, like other Administration officers, I went back to school.
In my case, it was in my hometown, Peoria, Illinois. It may not be easy to stop me once I start talking about Peoria, but I'll try to stick to the two schools I visited--Banner Elementary, of Dunlap, and Peoria's St. Vincent DePaul. Based on the kids I talked with today, America's future looks as bright as ever.
At Banner Elementary, I visited with Mrs. Conlee's kindergarten, where the students had just created a journal project on transportation and safety. Of course, that was right up my alley, and it didn't hurt that my grandson Luke is a student in Mrs. Conlee's class.
After the class visit, I spoke to an all-school assembly. My message there was simple, and it echoes an idea in President Obama's address to the nation's students: whatever role books and materials and facilities play, what makes a school special are its teachers and, perhaps more importantly, its students. Education is about students.
The students seemed most interested in what goes on inside the White House, but they were curious about how teachers have influenced my life. I was unequivocal in my support of teachers--many of you know I spent several years as a teacher--"Whatever teachers do, they do it for you; they help you because they care about your future."
At St. Vincent DePaul, I again talked to a schoolwide assembly. But I also had the pleasure of visiting another grandson's class, McKay's 2nd grade taught by Ms. Schwenger. The 2nd graders had prepared posters about transportation--it's safe to say they've got some interesting ideas. Again, I fielded questions though this time the students seemed more interested in what kind of sports I liked as a kid than in the doings inside the White House. I am tickled to note they did not dismiss kick-the-can as an old man's game--and I don't think they were merely being polite.
Today, we tried to teach students about taking responsibility for their education, about valuing the wisdom and preparation of their teachers, about not being bound by doubt.
And when the kids spent so much time asking me about what it was like growing up in Peoria, I learned that kids want to be able to reach out and understand previous generations. They want to see themselves as part of a continuing American project. More importantly, they seem ready to participate in that project, and I'm grateful to them, their parents, their teachers, and their school administrators for that.
Thanks in particular to today's teachers--Mrs. Conlee and Ms. Schwenger--and principals--Banner's Greg Fairchild and St. Vincent DePaul's Michael Birdoes. You've got a great bunch of colleagues and a fabulous bunch of students.
Luke and McKay, I love you guys-
On this Labor Day holiday weekend I want to let readers know how proud DOT is to have helped create jobs--directly and indirectly-- across America.
Work is a critical part of how Americans see and value themselves. Many of us derive dignity from being of use and pride from the products and services we provide. So, the Recovery Act is not just about generating economic activity. It's also about restoring dignity and pride to the nation's workers.
Listen, for example, to two different workers talking about their jobs and their colleagues...
Interviewer #1: What do you like most about your job?
Keith Miller: Just the sight of seeing something come out of the ground. All it is is a piece of paper when it's handed to me, and then when we get done, you've got a fairly large structure coming out of the ground that's working the way it was supposed to be.
Interviewer #2: What's it like out there right now?
Brandon Nesler: I know 40 or so equipment operators personally that have been displaced by the economic downturn. We need these projects to roll because they just want to put on their boots, grab a lunch-pail, and get to work.
Putting people back to work is important for many reasons. That's why the ripple effects of our Recovery Act spending--creating even more jobs for each dollar--are so important.
Our friends at New Hampshire's Pike Industries know first-hand how stimulus spending spreads through the economy. A recent video shows the benefits of their ARRA work being shared by many--from Pike employees to sub-contractors, from suppliers to those whose business benefit from tourists who can now travel on smooth, safe, and scenic New Hampshire roads:
This Labor Day, as signs of the Administration's efforts to rebuild the economy pepper our roadways, I am proud of the DOT and its role in job-creation. For generating economic recovery, yes. But also for helping restore America in other important ways.
Earlier this week, we created the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Bonding Assistance Reimbursable Fee Program, a $20 million initiative that will help disadvantaged businesses better compete for work on transportation projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Through this new Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) program, disadvantaged business enterprises can be reimbursed for bonding premiums and fees incurred on transportation infrastructure projects funded by the Recovery Act. The program will be particularly helpful for businesses with less capital than they're larger competitors.
This Administration is committed to doing all it can to help these businesses realize the American dream and contribute to making our transportation systems even better. This program helps level the playing field so these companies have the tools and resources they need to compete with larger players.
Today marks the 200th day of the Obama Administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez traveled to Maple Grove, Minnesota. Joined by Senators Amy Kloubuchar and Al Franken, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, he kicked-off a new project to extend Highway 610 in the Twin Cities' fast-growing northern suburbs. Coincidentally, the 610 project is expected to create 200 new jobs. That is stimulus.
This is an important time for America's highways; we've just completed the second 100-days of the Recovery Act, and American communities have a lot to show for it. 3,458 road projects are underway or already completed. But these aren't just projects--they're new jobs, over 30,000 of them. 100 projects are underway now in Minnesota alone.
The 610 project will be Minnesota's largest ARRA project to date. The $48 million work--including $27 million in Recovery Act money--features two new interchanges, three highway bridges, a pedestrian bridge, storm water ponds, noise walls, bus-only shoulders, and aesthetic improvements. This extension increases neighborhood safety by diverting vehicles from heavily-trafficked local roads.
What I really like about this particular project, apart from the jobs it creates and the economic ripples from those jobs into the community, is that, before the Recovery Act, the Minnesota DOT couldn't budget the work to begin until 2014. Thanks to the stimulus, the work begins today and will be completed by 2011. That's a full 3 years before it was even due to start!
For the folks whose neighborhood streets will be quieter and safer, that's big news. And for the folks called back to work on Highway 610 and for the businesses where payroll will be spent, that's stimulus.
When the stimulus started this spring, DOT had high hopes for the program. It has exceeded all expectations. The Recovery Act is working for Minnesota; it's working for America.
Yesterday in Kansas City, Deputy Secretary John Porcari represented the DOT at the opening of the Green Impact Assistance Center. That's the office that will coordinate activities in the city's Green Impact Zone.
It's really an interesting idea, Kansas City's Green Zone, and its importance was underscored by attendees Urban Affairs Director Adolfo Carrion, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Van Jones, special advisor for green jobs with the White House Council for Environmental Quality. I want to thank John for holding up DOT's leg of the Livable Communities tripod for us.
What is the Green Impact Zone? In this case it's a 150-block section of Kansas City that could serve as a national model for coordinating federal and local investment to create jobs, promote environmentally progressive development, and revitalize a troubled urban core. The Zone plan has 3 key features:
Many thanks to the folks at Missouri DOT who have recorded a great interview with Keith Miller, our latest Voice of the Recovery Act. Keith is project superintendent on a bridge rebuilding effort in Tuscumbia.
The interview is important because you'll see a front-line guy who gets it--who sees how Recovery Act money not only creates jobs on his project, but also ripples outward through the economy.
Because Keith manages the materials delivered for the project, he has a firsthand view of how the benefits of stimulus grants reach beyond the specific projects funded.
"All the suppliers--the factories that manufacture the steel, the companies that make the concrete--it distributes--there's a lot of cash that comes into their hands that wouldn't if these projects weren't going."
As a supervisor, Keith also sees how local businesses are getting benefits from newly employed bridgeworkers who are buying lunch at local eateries and fuel for their commutes at local gas stations.
"It helps the local community as much as it does the workers who are doing the work. It spreads out more than you'd think."
It's great to see the jobs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act creates directly. But it's also gratifying to see it stimulating the economy indirectly. Through materials and equipment for the job--yes--but also through the retail services that support the Tuscumbia bridge site's new workers.
Through the food they can buy and the cars they can buy parts for. Through the school supplies and clothes they can now afford for their kids.
And it's great that we can do all of that and, at the same time, bring America's transportation networks into the 21st century. As Keith says, "I'm glad to see they're putting money into transportation because that's our lifeline--that's how we get food and supplies from one place to the other."
This is stimulus, and Keith Miller gets it.