Pete Buttigieg – former 2020 Democratic candidate for president and mayor of South Bend, Ind. – touted safety and infrastructure investment as his key priorities during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Jan. 21 to be the 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
“Safety is the foundation of the department [of transportation’s] mission, and it takes on new meaning amid this [COVID-19] pandemic,” Buttigieg said in his written testimony. “We must ensure all of our transportation systems – from aviation to public transit, to our railways, roads, ports, waterways, and pipelines – are managed safely during this critical period, as we work to defeat the virus.”
Nominated to be U.S. Department of Transportation secretary by President Joe Biden in December 2020, Buttigieg also stressed that investment in transportation infrastructure will play a critical role in both restoring and growing the U.S. economy, said the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
“We need to build our economy back, better than ever, and the Department of Transportation can play a central role in this by … creating millions of good-paying jobs, revitalizing communities that have been left behind, enabling American small businesses, workers, families and farmers to compete and win in the global economy, and tackling the climate crisis,” Buttigieg said.
“Infrastructure can be the cornerstone to all of this, and you have my commitment that I will work closely with you to deliver the innovation and growth that America needs in this area,” he emphasized.
“This is our opportunity to literally do the ‘building’ within the Build Back Better agenda,” Buttigeig noted during the question and answer portion of the hearing.
“While there is still a lot of conversation before that [investment] happens not only within the administration but within Congress on how to shape and fund that opportunity, this is part and parcel of what has to happen for the economy to recover,” he pointed out.
“Certainly, there are challenges for every mode of transportation,” Buttigieg added. “We know, for example, that more is going out of the Highway Trust Fund than going into it and that Congress is maintaining it through general fund transfers. So there we need a more stable and predictable means of funding. However, we must also remember we have a historic opportunity here on both sides of the aisle and with the public for transportation investment, whether we are talking about trains, planes, and automobiles or next generation transportation.”
Infrastructure is expected to get the star treatment in the first year of Biden’s term.
Biden said in a statement, “in my first appearance before a Joint Session of Congress, I will lay out … my Build Back Better Recovery Plan. It will make historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy.” The president said this approach would create more than 18 million jobs.
“It’s time to stop talking about infrastructure and finally start building it,” Biden emphasized. “Millions of good-paying jobs that put Americans to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and ports to make them more climate resilient, to make it faster, cheaper, and cleaner to transport American-made goods across our country and around the world.”