At DOT, we’re all about building big--while building safely. And today, I met with representatives from the Common Ground Alliance (CGA) in Las Vegas to discuss how to make America’s transportation projects safer before even breaking ground.
Damage to natural gas pipelines from digging has caused 19 fatalities in the past 5 years. That’s why I remain so concerned about the dangers of damage while digging, which causes one out of every five serious pipeline accidents. Even our nation’s contractors and excavators don’t always know exactly where our pipelines are located.
It’s easy to understand why. America’s energy transportation network is enormous. There are more than 2.5 million miles of pipe--enough to circle the earth 100 times--and much of it was installed at least 50 years ago.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with CGA to spread the word for National Safe Digging Month in April. As we say, you’ve got to “know what’s below” and call 811 before you dig. The number is universal and works across the country. It’s a good idea in both construction and for private homeowners. Some of these gas service lines are installed just 12 inches below the surface.
I reminded them to always put safety first on the job site--especially since these contractors are working on many of the most critical road and bridge projects around the country.
This includes projects like the Hoover Dam bridge, which was built almost entirely by members of the AGC and their employees. The bridge, which creates a faster and more efficient route between Phoenix and Las Vegas, is the longest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and rests on the tallest precast concrete columns ever constructed. It’s a wonder of engineering, and proof that American innovation is still hard at work.
That’s why the Obama Administration is committed to investing in the roadways, runways, and railways that will help keep America competitive in the global economy.
We know American businesses and American workers are ready to build the 21st century transportation system we all need and deserve. As I toured the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show, I saw firsthand the ingenuity on display by leading American manufacturers like John Deere, Caterpillar, and Case Construction.
And these investments will have far-reaching effects. Just last week, Volvo announced it would invest $100 million in upgrades and expansions to their Shippensburg, Pennsylvania factory, allowing them to ramp up production of three different types of construction equipment and provide new economic opportunities to skilled American workers.
Together, we can and will make our nation’s transportation system the envy of the world once again. And we will do it as safely as possible.