U.S. Department of Transportation

12/02/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2021 13:58

Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks in Charlotte, NC

What a pleasure to be here in Charlotte, and what an honor to be joined by the distinguished company that's here.

I'm particularly honored to be joining the Vice President. To be with Governor Cooper, whose visionary leadership, I have admired for a long time. Representative Adams, who has encouraged me for some time to come to this district, and I'm so glad that we're here. Mayor Lyles, who I first got to know in the community of mayors and who's doing a terrific job in Charlotte. CEO John Lewis, who graciously gave us such an informative tour. And so many other leaders and people who care about infrastructure in this region and in our country.

134 years ago, Charlotte unveiled its first ever public transit system. It was three horse-drawn street cars, each carrying 12 passengers. And that modest beginning actually represented the outset of a transportation revolution. Because it meant that suddenly people didn't necessarily have to live within walking distance of their jobs. Soon new homes, new businesses, and entire neighborhoods sprung up along those trolley routes. So leaders in Charlotte knew then what we know now. That public transit makes life better for people by increasing access to opportunity.

This is a city that has a great track record of partnering with the federal government to invest in transit. Of course, my predecessor, Secretary Anthony Foxx, someone people here remember, of course, as Mayor Foxx, was a model for that approach and helped bring so many transformative projects to life.

The facility that we're at today and the electric bus pilot are products of local and federal investment.

Investing to make it more convenient and quicker and easier to get around by transit pays dividends.

It pays off for people who don't own a car or don't want to have to deal with parking and with filling up. Having access to transit means you have better ways to get to jobs and opportunities while saving money.

And for those who do drive a car, doing so in a city with good transit, of course, means less traffic and less congestion when you drive.

For every child who breathes air in this city, transit reduces the pollution that can cause asthma and other health problems.

For small businesses, it brings new customers and lets you recruit employees who live further away.

And for those communities, and there are many, that have been disconnected or divided by transportation decisions in the past, transit holds out the promise of better connecting people to jobs, schools, opportunity, and each other.

About two weeks ago, we were delighted to award this city a $15 million grant through our RAISE program to help construct the Charlotte transit hub to uptown.

It's going to make it easier for people to connect between bus routes and the LYNX Blue Line and Gold Line, and a new bicycle and pedestrian trail, so that more people can easily and safely get to where they need to go across Charlotte.

Now, that grant was part of an extremely competitive process. In fact, we got about $10 billion in applications for $1 billion dollars in funding.

But now thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that President Biden signed last month, we will have the resources to support far more, worthy projects like these, here in North Carolina and across the country.

This bill is going to make the biggest investment, in fact, in public transit in history.

It will modernize roads and bridges, passenger rail and freight rail, ports and airports.

It will get more electric buses like the ones we saw today onto the road more quickly and more electric vehicles helping to reduce carbon emissions.

And maybe the best part, it is going to create a lot of good paying jobs - for people building and maintaining our new infrastructure, and for the people whose business relies on goods moving from factories to shelves.

So, generations ago, cities like Charlotte moved past horse-drawn transit in part because they were thinking about safety, pollution and efficiency.

Today, we're beginning another new chapter in our transit history. To make it safer, cleaner and more accessible than ever.

It's my honor to be here today with somebody who did so much to make this infrastructure law possible - and that's Vice President Harris.

The Vice President traveled this country speaking to people about what an investment in jobs and infrastructure could mean for their communities. She spent countless hours helping the President negotiate with Members of Congress. She worked to make sure that clean school buses, clean water and environmental justice were included - all of which are issues that she championed in the Senate as well.

I remember one meeting in particular, early in the negotiations as the President was gathering people from both sides of the aisle in the Oval Office to discuss where the space for a deal might be. And there was a lot of listening and the Members had a lot to say. I was trying to offer some technical input and data from our Department. And in that conversation, at just the right moment, the Vice President spoke. And her message was about to need to think big. Not to get lost in the details or the politics, but to remember the unique nature of the opportunity in front of us.

And she was exactly right. And it helped shape the conversation. It's just one very small example of the countless ways in which her presence has made an impact on this monumental legislation.

So now more people in Charlotte and across the country will ride electric buses, travel on safer roads, and have a chance to work building infrastructure that will support our economy for generations.

We're going to hear from Vice President Harris in a moment. Before that, you're going to get to know somebody that we just got to know on the tour - Chanda Wright. A railcar maintenance technician here in Charlotte. And I'll say transportation workers like Chanda have been so indispensable to keeping us moving during the pandemic. They don't get the option of coming to work by Zoom. They have been there for us every single day. And both the workers who are driving our transportation systems, literally, and the workers who count on them in order to get to where they need to be, that's who this legislation is really about.

So again, thank you for the opportunity to be here. We are very excited in the Department of Transportation to work with Charlotte and communities across the country on the opportunities ahead. Thanks very much.