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Entries in Ray LaHood (11)

Friday
Feb222013

LaHood Warns Budget Cuts Would Be ‘Very Painful for the Flying Public’

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday that looming across-the-board spending cuts would cause flight delays at major airports, force the Federal Aviation Administration to furlough workers and have a “very serious impact” on the nation’s transportation services.

Painting a bleak picture, LaHood told reporters “it’s going to be very painful for the flying public” if the cuts kick in at the end of the month.

Overall, the Department of Transportation would need to cut roughly $1 billion from its $74.2 billion budget, less than two percent. More than $600 million of the cuts would come from the FAA, which would be forced to furlough the majority of its nearly 47,000 employees.

As a result, travelers could expect delays of up to 90 minutes at major airports like New York, Chicago and San Francisco because there would be fewer controllers on staff and some flight towers at smaller airports could close temporarily.

“You’ve got a big budget. Can’t you find some other way to cut that without telling air traffic controllers to stay home?” ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked.

“That’s a lot of money, Jonathan,” the secretary, a Republican, replied.

LaHood’s surprise appearance at the daily briefing comes as the White House is trying to ramp up pressure on Republicans to reach a deal to avoid so-called sequestration.

“I would describe my presence here with one word: Republican. They’re hoping that maybe I can influence some of the people in my own party,” the former Illinois congressman admitted.

LaHood urged his former Republican Party colleagues to “step up” and compromise and recommended they see the movie Lincoln for inspiration. “What Lincoln did is he gathered people around him the way that I believe president Obama is doing, by calling Republicans, talking to them, trying to work with them. And when that happens, big things get solved,” he said.

LaHood, 67, cautioned lawmakers to expect a flood of calls from their constituents if air-traffic delays occur. “Why does this have to happen?” he asked. “Nobody likes a delay. Nobody likes waiting in line. None of us do."

“If we can’t get our hamburger within five minutes, if we can’t get on the plane within 30, 40, 50 minutes after going through, you know what happens. They start calling their member of Congress.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec132011

Ray LaHood Warns Americans: ‘Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drunk driving-related fatalities were down 4.9 percent in 2010 nationwide, with 531 fewer deaths than the year before, according to new figures released Tuesday by the Department of Transportation.

Individually, however, the figures are not all positive. While the District of Columbia, for instance, slashed its number of drunk-driving fatalities by 55 percent, there was a 14 percent increase in fatalities last year in New York. New Hampshire saw a 52 percent increase in that same time frame.

Just in time for the holiday season and the spike in drunk driving that typically comes with it, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday a new PSA campaign called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” and a coordinated effort with local law enforcement to crack down on offenders. Despite the improving numbers, LaHood says he remains focused.

“Our work is not done,” LaHood said. “We can do better and we must do better. We are not going to rest.”

LaHood pledged to continue pursuing three key strategies to bring the number of alcohol-related road deaths down even further: tough laws, consistent enforcement and continued public education.

“Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” is a $7 million television, radio and Internet advertisement campaign warning Americans of the dangers of driving under the influence, and cautioning them about the consequences of getting caught. The campaign will run from Dec. 16 through Jan. 2. The ads feature invisible cops apprehending drunk drivers before they get in the car, and catching them moments later at sobriety checkpoints on their road home. Their message: "If you drive drunk, they’ll catch you."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun222011

International Billboard Research Trip 'Ridiculous,' Watchdog Says

The White House/Lawrence Jackson(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration has ordered a halt to a decade-long, multi-million dollar program that sent bureaucrats around the world to study foreign highways, but not before one group of officials completes an on-going taxpayer-funded foreign jaunt.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said late Tuesday he was suspending the program "while [he] personally reviews the way taxpayer dollars have been spent."

"The president has been clear: We must get rid of stupid spending and pointless waste," LaHood said in an emailed statement to ABC News. "Each taxpayer dollar is precious, and there is no excuse for wasting a single one.  That's why...I have suspended this program."

But LaHood's order came while a group of transportation officials was already abroad and that group plans to continue their itinerary -- studying pavement -- while LaHood studies the value of the program.  The group will return June 26, as scheduled, officials said.

"Taxpayers certainly should be outraged that their money is being spent on this type of activity when our roads are falling part, gas taxes and prices are at an all-time high," Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste, said on ABC's Good Morning America. "It really is a ridiculous use of our money."

The initiative, known as the International Scan Program, has been sending federal and state transportation employees to popular foreign tourist destinations for the past decade with the goal of studying how other countries handle the challenges of running major highway networks.  Other trips have been planned to study such issues as motorcycle safety, managing pavement, precast concrete, and adapting to climate change.

But the program began prompting questions in recent weeks, as members of Congress learned that a group of transportation officials traveled around the globe -- a nine city tour that took them to Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Great Britain -- in order to prepare a 76-page report about policies for dealing with billboard advertising.

Photos from the trip obtained by ABC News show some of the 12-member delegation toasting with wine glasses in Australia and driving the tulip-lined highways of Holland.  Travel records show the group secured luxury accommodations and ate in only the best eateries.  In Melbourne, that meant dining along the waterfront at the pricey Scusami Italian Restaurant, in Brisbane, the LAB Restaurant, in Stockholm, the five-star Fem Sma House.

The cost of the 17-day trip for bureaucrats to study billboards? Roughly $300,000, according to estimates the administration provided to Congress.  (Transportation officials said roughly $40,000 of that covered the expenses of the three federal workers on the trip.)

The program has been sending groups of federal and state workers on similar trips as often as four times a year for the past decade, at a total cost of nearly $12 million.

A transportation official said Tuesday night that the decision had been made weeks ago to include it in future cuts, and was not in response to ABC News questions.

Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, was also surprised by the extent of travel the Federal Highway Administration had engaged in, especially in an age when a great deal can be accomplished by teleconference and the Internet.

"I certainly think there's a waste of money here that this program needs to be tightened up, needs to be investigated," he said Tuesday.  "I think this is the type of foreign travel that should be grounded."

ABC News first contacted the Federal Highway Administration on Monday evening after obtaining a copy of a letter that House Republicans sent to the department late last week.

"We recognize that our transportation system can benefit from understanding best practices abroad," the June 17 letter to LaHood says.  "But we are unable to justify to the voters in our districts such spending in the face of rising gasoline prices and federal deficits."

The letter is signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Steve Southerland (R-Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.).

U.S. Transportation officials said the program has been co-financed with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials, and that it has produced some victories for taxpayers in the past.  For instance, one trip to study prefabricated bridge technologies contributed to accelerated bridge replacement in a number of locations, with some jurisdictions reporting savings as a result.

LaHood sent his statement to ABC News Tuesday evening, saying he did not believe it met the strict test the administration is using to evaluate spending programs.

"From the outset of this administration, I have urged agency personnel to be judicious and cost-conscious in the use of official travel and we will not tolerate any abuse of the public trust," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun212011

'Stupid Spending'?: ABC Inquires, Feds Stop Travel Program

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A $1.2 million federal highway program that sent employees on a 17-day globe-trotting journey to photograph different billboards was suspended Tuesday after ABC News alerted the U.S. Department of Transportation that it planned to air a report on the program.

"The President has been clear: We must get rid of stupid spending and pointless waste," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an emailed statement to ABC News. "Each taxpayer dollar is precious, and there is no excuse for wasting a single one. That's why…I have suspended this program."

LaHood said he directed the Federal Highway Administration to shut down this program until further notice "while I personally review the way taxpayer dollars have been spent."

The initiative, known as the International Scan Program, has been sending federal and state transportation employees to popular foreign tourist destinations for the past decade with the goal of studying how other countries handle the challenges of running major highway networks. Other trips have been planned to study such issues as motorcycle safety, managing pavement, precast concrete, and adapting to climate change. But the program began prompting questions in recent weeks, as members of Congress learned that a group of transportation officials traveled around the globe -- a nine-city tour that took them to Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Great Britain -- in order to prepare a 76-page report about policies for dealing with billboard advertising.

Photos from the trip obtained by ABC News show some of the 12-member delegation toasting with wine glasses in Australia and driving the tulip-lined highways of Holland. Travel records show the group secured luxury accommodations and ate well. In Melbourne, that meant dining along the waterfront at the pricey Scusami Italian Restaurant; in Brisbane, the LAB Restaurant; in Stockholm, the five-star Fem Sma House.

The cost of the 17-day trip for bureaucrats to study billboards? Roughly $300,000, according to estimates the administration provided to Congress.

And this was not a one-time occurrence. The program has been sending groups of federal and state workers on similar trips as often as four times a year for the past decade, at a total cost of nearly $12 million.

ABC News first contacted the Federal Highway Administration on Monday evening after obtaining a copy of a letter that House Republicans sent to the department late last week.

"We recognize that our transportation system can benefit from understanding best practices abroad," the June 17 letter to LaHood says. "But we are unable to justify to the voters in our districts such spending in the face of rising gasoline prices and federal deficits."

The letter is signed by Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), John Carter (R-Texas), Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), Steve Southerland (R-Fl.) and Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.).

LaHood sent his statement to ABC News Tuesday evening, saying he did not believe it met the strict test the administration is using to evaluate spending programs.

"From the outset of this administration, I have urged agency personnel to be judicious and cost-conscious in the use of official travel and we will not tolerate any abuse of the public trust," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Apr172011

FAA Makes Changes to Controller Schedules

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Sunday announced several changes to the work schedules of air traffic controllers across the country, with the aim of allowing controllers to have more rest between shifts and prevent controllers from falling asleep on the job.

The changes in schedule come on the heels of incidents of air traffic controllers falling asleep while on duty in Miami and Reno, in the past week. These latest incidents are two of at least five reported incidents of controllers falling asleep during the overnight shift since early March.

“We have zero tolerance for sleeping on the job,” Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a statement. “Safety is our top priority and we will continue to make whatever changes are necessary.”

The FAA has implemented new scheduling rules which will see controllers now having a minimum of nine hours off between shifts and controllers will no longer be able to swap shifts unless they have at least nine hours off between the last shift they worked and the one they want to begin.

Officials say controllers will also no longer be able to switch to an unscheduled midnight shift following a day-off and FAA managers will seek to schedule their own shifts in a way that ensures greater coverage during the early morning and late night hours.

The FAA says the new rules have already been put in place and officials expect these rules will be in full effect in the coming days.

On Monday officials are scheduled to begin a series of Call to Action air traffic control safety and professionalism meetings, which will see officials visiting air traffic facilities in a number of cities including, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Kansas City.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr012011

Traffic Deaths in US Fall to Lowest Level in 60 Years

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of Americans killed on roads last year fell to its lowest level in 60 years despite a jump in miles traveled, government officials announced Friday.

According to projections by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic deaths declined to 32,788 in 2010, marking a three percent drop from the previous year and the lowest number of fatalities since 1949.  Moreover, since 2005, the total number of deaths has dropped by 25 percent.

The drop came even as Americans drove further in 2010, tacking on close to 21 billion more miles on their odometers than they did the year before, the NHTSA said.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the decrease in traffic deaths comes in part because more people are buckling up.

"We've had a very strong Click It or Ticket campaign for 20 years where we have persuaded 85 percent of the people to buckle up," LaHood told ABC News.

Yet the secretary declared "we can't rest on our laurels" since over 30,00 people still died, and pledged the government will remain vigilant about stopping traffic deaths.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar082011

Government Targets Distracted Teen Drivers

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Kids today are engaging in some very dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

That opinion was delivered by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Monday at Consumer Reports' headquarters in New York.  Specifically, LaHood warned that too many adolescents have fallen prey to distracted driving by fiddling with cell phones and other devices when they should be devoting all their concentration to the road.

LaHood cited a poll that reveals almost two-thirds of teens talk on the phone while driving, while another 30 percent admit to sending text messages.

The Consumer Reports study finds that young drivers aren't particularly concerned about bad habits, which LaHood says may be due to the fact that there's never been a time when they haven't had access to mobile phones and other hand-held contraptions, unlike previous generations.

According to the Department of Transportation, 5,550 vehicular fatalities and half-a-million injuries can be attributed each year to distracted driving, with about 18 percent of these accidents involving cell phone usage.

To help educate youngsters, the DOT has joined parents and teachers in a program to hammer home the message that teens need to focus on driving instead of multi-tasking behind the wheel.

To that end, the government is promoting a new website, Distraction.gov, and rolling out a series of public service announcements that deal with the problem.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar022011

Nation’s Highway Traffic Reaches Highest Level Since 2007 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans drove three trillion miles in 2010, the most vehicle miles traveled since 2007 and the third-highest ever recorded, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Wednesday. 

The increase in traffic volume comes as the U.S. in 2009 posted its lowest number of traffic fatalities and injuries since 1950.

"More driving means more wear and tear on our nation's roads and bridges," said Secretary LaHood.  "This new data further demonstrates why we need to repair the roads and bridges that are the lifeblood of our economy."

The Secretary noted that Americans drove 0.7 percent more, or 20.5 billion additional vehicle miles traveled (VMT), in 2010 than the previous year. Travel increased by 0.6 percent, or 1.4 billion VMT, in December 2010 compared to the previous December. It is the tenth consecutive month of increased driving. 

The new data, from the Federal Highway Administration's monthly "Traffic Volume Trends" report, show the South Gulf area, a block of eight states ranging from Texas to Kentucky, experienced the greatest regional increase in December 2010 at 46.6 billion VMT, an increase of 624 million miles traveled compared to the previous December.

With an increase of 11.1 percent, or 156 million additional miles traveled, Nebraska led the nation with the largest single-state increase that month, and rural driving out-paced urban driving across the country.

"These data are critical to identifying and evaluating patterns of use on America's road system, which help us to make decisions about investments in critical infrastructure," said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. "Repairing our nation's roads, bridges and tunnels will help us ensure safety, strengthen the economy and build for the future."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan192011

FAA Announces Record Number of Laser Events in 2010 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FAA announced Wednesday that in 2010, nationwide reports of lasers pointed at airplanes almost doubled from the previous year to more than 2,800. This is the highest number of laser events recorded since the FAA began keeping track in 2005.

Los Angeles International Airport recorded the highest number of laser events in the country for an individual airport in 2010, with 102 reports, and the greater Los Angeles area tallied nearly twice that number, with 201 reports. Chicago O’Hare International Airport was a close second, with 98 reports, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport tied for the third highest number of laser events for the year with 80 each.

“This is a serious safety issue,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Lasers can distract and harm pilots who are working to get passengers safely to their destinations.”

Nationwide, laser event reports have steadily increased since the FAA created a formal reporting system in 2005 to collect information from pilots. Reports rose from nearly 300 in 2005 to 1,527 in 2009 and 2,836 in 2010.

“The FAA is actively warning people not to point high-powered lasers at aircraft because they can damage a pilot’s eyes or cause temporary blindness,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “We continue to ask pilots to immediately report laser events to air traffic controllers so we can contact local law enforcement officials.”

Some cities and states have laws making it illegal to shine lasers at aircraft and, in many cases, people can face federal charges.

The increase in reports is likely due to a number of factors, including the availability of inexpensive laser devices on the Internet; higher power levels that enable lasers to hit aircraft at higher altitudes; increased pilot reporting of laser strikes; and the introduction of green lasers, which are more easily seen than red lasers. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan132011

U.S. DOT Issues New Mitigation Rule

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Thursday a final rule aimed at decreasing occupant ejections in passenger vehicles. The new U.S. Department of Transportation standard, which will help reduce the number of people partially or completely ejected through side windows during rollover crashes, will begin phasing in during 2013.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said Secretary LaHood.  “This new standard will help save lives and reduce injuries by requiring vehicles to have a safety system that keeps occupants in the vehicle in a rollover crash.”

Under the new rule, issued by the Department’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicle manufacturers must develop a countermeasure for light passenger vehicles under 10,000 lbs that prevents the equivalent of an unbelted adult from moving more than four inches past the side window opening in the event of a crash.  The new standard will begin phasing in during 2013 -- all newly manufactured vehicles will be required to provide this protection by model year 2018.

“Rollover crashes are the deadliest of all crash types and this is another important step in our efforts to reduce fatalities and serious injuries that result from them,” said Administrator David Strickland, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.   “When fully implemented, we believe this standard will prevent on average 373 fatalities and 476 serious injuries every year.”

Thursday's announcement is part of NHTSA’s initiative to improve the overall safety for occupants in the event of a rollover crash.  Previously, the agency issued rules requiring that all new vehicles come equipped with electronic stability control to keep vehicles from losing control and also upgraded its roof crush standard to keep the occupant compartment intact.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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