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Buttigieg Briefs Congress on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Implementation
Earlier this week, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg testified in front of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee about the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and I wanted to share a couple of observations.
- Secretary Buttigieg is really good at this. Throughout five hours of testimony, he proved his command of the law, the programs and, in many cases, the individual projects members asked about. Included in that is his firm belief that our transportation system needs to be centered on people — and not car-centric. Buttigieg also showed a good rapport with Committee members. The only pointed exchange came when one member talked about President Biden’s fall off his bike in July as a sign of Biden’s incompetence. Buttigieg replied, “I’m glad to have a President who can ride a bike.” (Really, who among us hasn’t struggled to stop with toe clips/clipless pedals.)
- Congress members are excited to see new transportation projects on the ground. Members asked about funding for biking and multimodal, transit, Amtrak and climate projects, even more than road projects. Buttigieg acknowledged it takes longer to get new programs off the ground than to update existing ones. We should expect to see the Climate Resiliency program, PROTECT, coming on line this summer. When questioned about DOT using BUILD grants to fund bicycling infrastructure instead of congestion mitigation, Buttigieg replied that there is quite a lot of funding for Congestion already and that all the programs funded met the goals of the program.
- Attacks on electric cars and charging stations. Much of the time was spent discussing the administration’s push toward electric cars, and the goal for putting in charging stations. They raised concerns over the cost of e-cars, the pressure increased e-cars will put on the electric grid, and whether the administration was purposely keeping gas prices high to encourage electric vehicle adoption. Buttigieg assured them e-cars are not as expensive as they claimed (he and Chasten got a used plug-in for $14,000) and, that while the electric grid needs updating, that can happen in tandem with adding stations.
- We are going to miss Chairman DeFazio. Chairman DeFazio is retiring at the end of the year, and we’ll miss him. He used his time in this hearing to affirm the goals of ‘fix it first’, how building slower streets makes safer streets, and the need to focus on equity and climate in our transportation system.
Also on the Hill this week:
It was a big day for Transportation policy in the House of Representatives. The full House of Representatives voted on a Transportation budget for next year — including new funding for:
- The Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program — which will fund local governments to address building out bicycling and walking networks..
- The Healthy Streets program — which will fund communities to address the Urban Heat Island effect and flooding near bus stops and walkways in low-income communities and communities of color.
The House also defeated an amendment that would have stopped the US Department of Transportation from implementing the US DOT’s Equity Action Plan to address inequities, and build a better, more equitable transportation system. This means increasing safe access to everyday destinations for everyone — including improving multimodal options, like bicycling, walking and transit, that have been neglected over decades.