For many it’s clear that spring has sprung when the cherry blossoms emerge or the car is covered in pollen. At DOT, no matter the temperature outside, you know it’s spring when the crowds arrive for the Washington Nationals’ first home game of the season. For some of us in the Executive Branch, spring is near when your congressional oversight committees call wanting to schedule hearings. For me, it’s also when I make reservations to go home for the Kentucky Derby. In any event, at long last it is spring!
April is officially National Safe Digging Month, which provides a vital opportunity to highlight the importance of safe digging and excavation as an everyday practice. As the seasonal changes of spring encourage more outdoor activities and projects, from landscaping to mailbox and patio installation, safe digging is critical. Excavation damage is the leading cause of serious pipeline incidents and has led to injuries, environmental damage, and even death.
Although excavation and pipeline damage is the foremost cause of pipeline incidents, it is also the most preventable. The number one tool for prevention is to call 8-1-1 or log onto clicks 811.com. This nationwide toll-free one call notification center has proven to be the most effective community resource in preventing excavation-related damage, and remains the mandatory first step in preparation of any digging or excavation project. Calling or clicking 811, at least 48 to 72 hours before any digging or excavation project, can confirm the location of intricate underground systems including hazardous liquid, natural gas and water pipelines, as well as electrical power lines, cables, telecommunication alarm systems, and sewer drains.
Industry data tells us that someone who breaks ground without calling 8-1-1 damages an underground utility line every six minutes…10 times per hour…240 times per day. Research confirms that if someone calls 8-1-1 before they dig, they have a 99 percent chance of not causing an unfortunate, costly incident.
Summer and fall are the peak seasons for road construction to make needed improvements on our nation’s highways and streets. Road work can be a very dangerous occupation as motor vehicles are speeding by, too often in excess of posted speed limits, with drivers distracted and not focused on the road around them. In 2016, 143 construction workers were killed by motor vehicles in road work zones. This loss of life is tragic and preventable, primarily by drivers being more careful.
Nearly 800 people were killed and tens of thousands injured in road work zones in 2016. Most of these fatalities were drivers and passengers. Approximately 15-20% of road work zone crashes involve non-motorists – pedestrians and bicyclists. Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone crash and typically take place on roads with speed limits greater than 50 mph.
30 percent of work zone crashes involve large trucks. The stopping distance for a large truck travelling at 55 mph is almost 50 percent greater than that needed for a car. Truck drivers need to be especially careful. And it should go without saying that if you’re in a 3000-lb car, it is unwise, as well as rude, to race to cut in front of an 80,000-lb truck.
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao lauded the many achievements of U.S. women in transportation during Celebrating Women in Transportation: Land, Air and Sea, a Women’s History Month (WHM) program at DOT headquarters. The Department partnered with the Virginia Tech Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) student chapter and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to produce the event.
“The Department is committed to helping build the next generation of women leaders in transportation,” said Secretary Chao. In 2015, 1/3 of women had a B.A. or higher, compared with only eight percent of women holding B.A. degrees in 1967, And, across DOT, the Secretary noted, 160 women occupy executive positions.
In addition to Secretary Chao’s remarks, the event featured a panel of women senior leaders from the Department who shared how their career journey and lessons learned along the way, how US DOT evolved over the years and what the next generation can do to advance at US DOT and in the world.
Moderated by Anne Audet, Deputy Director with the Departmental Office of Human Resource Management Office of the Secretary, the leadership Panel included Federal Transit Administration Deputy Administrator K. Jane Williams, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Heidi King, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Cathy F. Gautreaux, Federal Highway Administration Acting Administrator Brandye Hendrickson, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Drue Pearce, and DOT Chief Information Officer Vicki Hildebrand.
U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine L. Chao addresses attendees. during Celebrating Women in Transportation: Land, Air and Sea, a Women’s History Month (WHM) program at DOT headquarters on March 13 (photo, courtesy of OST photography)
When disaster strikes, time is of the essence. Every minute, hour, and day matters when making damage assessments in the aftermath of a powerful hurricane, flood, or storm. Technology saves time and can be critical to efforts to get roads and bridges open to traffic again after a natural disaster, especially when the damage is widespread and difficult to access.
That’s why the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) developed an app to replace detailed, time-consuming paper surveys and inspection reports on the damage required under the agency’s Emergency Relief (ER) and Emergency Relief for Federally Owned Roads (ERFO) programs.
FHWA’s “Mobile Solution for Assessment and Reporting” (MSAR) app, available for download from the Apple app store and other online app stores, is designed to simplify laborious and time-consuming data collection for FHWA, state Departments of Transportation, Federal Land Management agencies, and Tribal government engineers. Most importantly, it allows them to gather data in the field by downloading the app to a cell phone or tablet, making the process faster and easier by shortening a process that once took about 18 hours to 20 minutes, and saving taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million per disaster.
Traditional survey and inspection reporting requires cumbersome paper forms and maps, tedious spreadsheets, and the use and storage of paper maps, cameras, and other outdated tools – including tiresome data entry.
The MSAR system makes the process much easier – and faster – for trained professionals. It allows photos of the damage to be easily pinpointed on a map, often with estimated locations and identified by an inventory number. The estimates, photos or videos, and location maps are later compiled by state offices to be sent to FHWA emergency relief coordinators. The data is verified and, if need be, updated and sent via email back and forth. While still a complex data gathering effort, MSAR makes it much faster and more cost-effective.
On Sunday, March 11 at 2 a.m., much of the nation will move their clocks forward – as we “spring ahead” to Daylight Saving Time (DST).
Did you know that the DOT and DST have a shared history that began with the railroad industry?
In 1883, U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted a four-zone system to govern their operations and reduce the confusion resulting from some 100 conflicting locally established “sun times” observed in terminals across the country.
Local decisions on which time zone to adopt were usually influenced by the time used by local railroad companies. States and municipalities then adopted one of the four zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific Time zones.
In 1918, Congress passed the Standard Time Act (STA), marking federal oversight of time zones and establishing boundaries between the standard time zones in the continental United States so that more standardized railroad schedules could be published.
DOT assumed responsibility of administering the STA from the Interstate Commerce Commission, when the Department was established by a congressional act October 15, 1966.
Today, DOT oversees the nation’s time zones and the uniform observance of DST, including exercising authority that allows a state to change its official time zone.
Some states and U.S. territories do not observe DST, but its multiple benefits are still widely recognized.
You can read more about DST here.
Local decisions on which time zone to adopt were usually influenced by the time used by local railroad companies.
Christine M. Darden was born on September 10, 1942 in Monroe, North Carolina. Darden was the youngest of five children born to Noah Horace Sr., an insurance agent, and Desma Chaney Mann, an elementary school teacher. Darden attended Winchester Avenue High School and then transferred to Allen High School, a Methodist boarding school (formerly the Allen School for Negro Girls), in Asheville, North Carolina. She graduated from Allen High School in 1958 as the class valedictorian and received a scholarship to attend Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.
In 1962, Darden received her B.S. degree in mathematics education and her teaching certification from Hampton Institute. She went on to earn her M.S. degree in applied mathematics from Virginia State College in 1967, and her D.Sc. degree in mechanical engineering with a specialty in fluid mechanics from George Washington University in 1983.
From 1962 to 1963, Darden was a mathematics instructor at Russell High School in Lawrenceville, Virginia. She continued teaching at Norcom High School in Portsmouth from 1964 to 1965. After completing her M.S. degree program, Darden became a data analyst for NASA at its Langley Research Center. In 1973, Darden was promoted to the position of aerospace engineer; and, in 1989, she was appointed as the technical leader of NASA’s Sonic Boom Group of the Vehicle Integration Branch of the High Speed Research Program where she was responsible for developing the sonic boom research program internally at NASA. She also maintained partnerships with and led an advisory team composed of representatives from industrial manufacturers and academic institutions.
In October of 1994, Darden became the deputy program manager of The TU-144 Experiments Program, an element of NASA’s High Speed Research Program; and, in 1999, she was appointed as the director in the Program Management Office of the Aerospace Performing Center at Langley Research Center where she was responsible for Langley research in air traffic management and other aeronautics programs managed at other NASA Centers. In addition, Darden served as technical consultant on numerous government and private projects, and she is the author of more than fifty publications in the field of high lift wing design in supersonic flow, flap design, sonic boom prediction, and sonic boom minimization.
Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was born on January 26, 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. She was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, who both worked as sharecroppers. Her father, who was of Native American and African American descent, left the family in search of better opportunities in Oklahoma when Bessie was a child. Her mother did her best to support the family and the children contributed as soon as they were old enough.
At 12 years old, Coleman began attending the Missionary Baptist Church in Texas. After graduating, she embarked on a journey to Oklahoma to attend the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University (Langston University), where she completed only one term due to financial constraints.
In 1915, at 23 years old, Coleman moved to Chicago, where she lived with her brothers and worked as a manicurist. Not long after her move to Chicago, she began listening to and reading stories of World War I pilots, which sparked her interest in aviation.
In 1922, a time of both gender and racial discrimination, Coleman broke barriers and became the world's first black woman to earn a pilot's license. Because flying schools in the United States denied her entry, she took it upon herself to learn French and move to France to achieve her goal. After only seven months, Coleman earned her license from France's well known Caudron Brother's School of Aviation.
Though she wanted to start a flying school for African Americans when she returned to the U.S., Coleman specialized in stunt flying and parachuting, and earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks. In 1922, she became the first African-American woman in America to make a public flight.
On April 30, 1926, Coleman was tragically killed at only 34 years old when an accident during a rehearsal for an aerial show sent her plummeting to her death. Coleman remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.
Many of the world’s most famous inventors only produced one major invention that garnered recognition and cemented their prominent status. But Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963), one the country’s most successful African-American inventors, created two – the gas mask and the three-position traffic signal.
Born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to former slaves, Garrett A. Morgan was only formally educated to a sixth-grade level. Fortunately, like many great inventors, Morgan had an innate mechanical mind that enabled him to solve problems. And, unlike most other inventors, he also was a skilled entrepreneur.
After moving to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of 16, Garrett Morgan’s business sense and strong work ethic led him to almost immediate success. He invented and patented the first chemical hair straightener, started his own sewing equipment repair business, and even established a newspaper – the Cleveland Call.
But Morgan’s most prolific accomplishments came in his role as an inventor. He received a patent for the first gas mask invention in 1914, but it wasn’t until two years later that the idea really took off. When a group of workers got stuck in a tunnel below Lake Erie after an explosion, Morgan and a team of men donned the masks to help get them out. After the rescue was a success, requests for the masks began pouring in.
Similarly, Garrett Morgan’s other famous invention – the three-position traffic signal – was also invented to help save lives. After witnessing an accident on a roadway, Morgan decided a device was needed to keep cars, buggies and pedestrians from colliding. His traffic signal was designed to stand on a street corner and notify vehicles and walkers whether they should stop or go. After receiving a patent in 1923, the rights to the invention were eventually purchased by General Electric.
Prior to his invention, most traffic signs in use had only two positions: stop and go. These manually operated two-position signals were an improvement over uncontrolled intersections, but because they allowed no interval between stop and go commands, collisions at busy intersections were common.
Morgan's signal was a T-shaped pole that featured three positions: stop, go, and an all-direction stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions before vehicles were allowed to proceed on either of the intersection's roads. This feature not only made it less dangerous for motorists to travel through intersections but also allowed pedestrians to cross safely.
Morgan died on July 27m 1963 at the age of 83. His inventions are still used today. The original prototype of the three-position traffic signal is on display at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum and the Safety Hood is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Rosa Parks remains one of the most recognizable figures of the Civil Rights era after she famously refused to give up her seat on a city bus in 1955. After defying a Montgomery, Alabama ordinance that required African Americans to sit in the back of the bus and comply with requests to move for white passengers, Parks was arrested. Following her arrest, the African American community organized a city-wide bus boycott that lasted close to a year and helped propel the nation’s Civil Rights movement.
The city’s discriminatory laws that prompted Parks’ act provide a visible contrast to today’s bus systems. Racial discrimination is illegal in current transportation laws. More than that, buses are now among the most equitable ways for people to access jobs, school, health care and other services.
In 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of bus desegregation. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) opened more doors by requiring public transportation to be accessible to all, prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Now, virtually all U.S. transit buses are equipped with lifts and other features to ensure accessibility, and the ADA provides for accessible non-bus service for those who need it.
Buses provide a mode of transportation in rural and urban places. In rural America, buses link residents of rural towns to opportunities in job centers. They take tribal residents from reservations to jobs and services, sometimes over long distances.
Rosa Parks’ actions were pivotal in affirming the dignity of everyone using public transportation. After finishing her shift as a seamstress at a department store, Parks boarded a public bus and took a seat in the “colored” section at the back of the bus. As the bus began to fill with passengers, some white patrons were forced to stand, prompting the bus driver to ask Parks and other African American riders to give up their seats.
Parks was arrested when she didn’t comply. The local NAACP organized a bus boycott that lasted 381 days. When African Americans refused to take the bus, opting instead to carpool or walk, it impacted city finances and sparked a very public protest against segregation. A year later, and after some 42,000 people had participated, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of bus desegregation.
Today, buses are the most widely used form of public transportation in the United States, serving communities large and small. The Federal Transit Administration identified 1,186 fixed-route transit bus systems operating in 2016 – 775 in urban areas and 411 in rural areas – and an astonishing 5.3 billion bus trips.
FTA funds transit buses and bus facilities for more than 3,000 agencies nationwide, including a program specifically to support tribal transit. The agency’s support goes far toward ensuring that people can get to their jobs, take care of vital needs and take part in life’s activities.