DOT chief touts highway bill, drone registration rules

Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxUS-Mexico air transport deal cleared for takeoff DC Metro lags on federal safety actions Republican lawmakers sound the alarm over Cuba flights MORE touted new drone registration rules and the $305 billion highway bill that was passed by Congress last year on Tuesday as examples of "tangible accomplishments" that were achieved by the Obama administration in 2015. 

"We were able to demonstrate that government can adapt quickly to technological change by announcing new rules for registering Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) or drones and building the online system to manage those hundreds of thousands of registrations in fewer than two months," Foxx said of the drone registration rules in a blog post on the Department of Transportation's (DOT) website.

"Of course, we also spent much of the year working to pass a long-term transportation bill that provides states, counties, transit agencies, and local communities with the funding certainty they need to green light long overdue transportation projects," he added about the highway funding measure. 

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"Last month, we saw that marathon effort finally bear fruit in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act –the first long-term transportation bill enacted in more than 10 years," Foxx concluded. 

The new rules for keeping track of drones have come under fire from users of the devices, who have argued that the $5 fee that is being charged by the DOT for registrations is a "drone tax."

A drone user has also sued the Federal Aviation Administration over the rules, argues that the drone registration requirement that was put in place last month violates a federal law that prohibits the FAA from regulating recreational drones.  

Foxx included the drone registration rules in a list of innovations in technology that were completed by the DOT in 2015. 

"Early in the year, we launched our Beyond Traffic blue paper on transportation trends and challenges projected in the next 30 years. This catalyzed a year-long, nationwide conversation about how we can best meet those challenges," he wrote.  

"Also in 2015, we launched the Build America Transportation Investment Center to help transportation projects better leverage innovative funding sources so they can move off the drawing board and on to delivering real benefits," Foxx continued. 

Foxx added that the transportation department "made significant headway in the area of opportunity" in 2015. 

"I’ve made no secret that access to transportation is an absolute prerequisite for access to opportunity –whether that opportunity is in the form of a job, education, or even something as basic as a full-service grocery store," he wrote. 

"That’s why we’ve worked hard this year to help transit agencies engage in workforce development, help local workers get hired for transportation projects, and help communities get access to the technical assistance required for careful transportation planning through our LadderSTEP program," he concluded.