Buttigieg says Biden plan will usher new transportation era

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says an infrastructure plan expected soon from President Joe Biden will offer a “once in a century” opportunity to remake transportation in the United States, with cars and highways no longer king

Via AP news wire
Thursday 18 March 2021 21:48

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday that an infrastructure plan expected soon from President Joe Biden will offer a “once in a century” opportunity to remake transportation in the United States, where cars and highways are no longer be king.

Speaking at the Austin Texas-based South by Southwest conference, which is being held virtually this year, Buttigieg compared the new possibility to the creation of an interstate highway under President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s and a transcontinental railroad under President Abraham Lincoln a century before that.

“We start with something unglamorous, which is fixing and improving what we’re already got — there’s been a trillion dollar backlog just in the roads and bridges we already have,” he said. “But I’ll add there are some things that need to be reduced ... sometimes roads need to go on a diet."

He said the U.S. can no longer follow a 1950s mentality of building roads and communities based on moving as many as cars as possible, but must adapt to the reality of climate change and ensure the safety of growing numbers of bicyclists and pedestrians on the streets.

“The design choices we make, how fast cars move, whether there’s bike lanes and sidewalks ... green space even, all of this is part of that view,” Buttigieg said. “Sometimes we do need to add a road or widen one. Just as often I think we need to subtract.”

Buttigieg's remarks came after a report on Wednesday forecast that global gasoline demand has peaked and is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels due to shifts in consumer behavior, such as increasing telework and people moving to electric vehicles. People also are shifting to other modes of transportation, such as bicycles or scooters, for shorter trips.

A closely divided Congress is preparing for major fights over the shape and scope of an infrastructure package, including the level of federal investments in public transit versus roads and highways.

The recently passed COVID-19 bill included $30.5 billion for struggling transit agencies. Public transportation groups are urging even bigger investments in infrastructure legislation, which historically has sent 80% of its money to roads and highways over transit with the support of rural, Republican-leaning states.

During the presidential campaign, Biden laid the groundwork by proposing $2 trillion to address infrastructure and climate change. But the White House hasn’t yet committed to a timeline for the release of a detailed plan, which already faces resistance from Republicans over Biden’s focus on the environment and the cost.

On Thursday, Buttigieg said he saw opportunities to build out high-speed and other passenger rail in strongly Republican states, not just coastal, Democratic areas in the Northeast and California. He said that could reduce car-dependence, create jobs and help the environment. But he acknowledged he “can't do it alone,” without major federal investment and support from Congress.

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and former presidential Democratic candidate made his return Thursday to the annual Texas arts and technology festival. SXSW Chief Programming Officer Hugh Forrest lauded Buttigieg as the “most successful startup” after making his first appearance at the event when running for president in 2019. The festival was canceled last year due to the emerging pandemic.

Buttigieg made clear his work on the Biden team is just getting started.

“When I leave this job whenever that is, I want to be able to look back and say my presence here helped make the 2020s a turning point in the story of American transportation,” he said, to make it more “equitable” and as a primary driver of solutions on climate change.

“I really think we can do that,” Buttigieg said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in