Buttigieg discusses infrastructure bill’s impact on California, high-speed rail project with Sacramento Press Club

Politics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg spoke with FOX40’s Nikki Laurenzo and the Los Angeles Times’ Chris Megerian Thursday for an interview about President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package.

The Sacramento Press Club’s virtual forum covered the impacts the president’s infrastructure funding will have on California.

Buttigieg went over how the money will affect the controversial high-speed rail project.

“One of the reasons why you see a historic level of commitment to passenger rail — and I should say this isn’t all for high-speed, but it certainly includes that — one of the reasons you see that in this bill is we do think it’s important for the economic competitiveness of the country as a whole,” Buttigieg said. “And the opportunity in California is a big example of that.” 

That project could cost nearly $100 billion to complete.

“Now, this bill will not single-handedly fund any high-speed rail project. It takes partnerships and collaborations,” Buttigieg explained.

“But this going to have to require lots of collaboration, lots of partnership, lots of players to actually be a success and to demonstrate that America can do high-speed rail as well as any other country,” he continued.

Quickly endorsing Biden after abandoning the presidential race, the 39-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, now stands to become one of the more powerful brokers in Washington, handling the largest infusion of cash into the transportation sector since the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system.

In all, about $120 billion of the $550 billion in new transportation spending in the bill would come in the form of competitive grants that give Buttigieg discretion in how the money is used.

As a mayor, Buttigieg was attuned to calls to fix roads and potholes. He relished talking about state-of-the-art sewer system. Now that message will be national with the stakes far greater.

Nina Smith, Buttigieg’s former traveling campaign press secretary, said as Biden’s top lieutenant on the bill, Buttigieg has the opportunity to lead an effort to “eradicate past injustices.”

During Thursday’s virtual forum, he addressed the dividing factors present in things such as the construction of the nation’s highway system.

“Importantly, we’re generally not talking about infrastructure projects that are going to be designed and invented in this building here in Washington, D.C., and then imposed on communities,” Buttigieg said. “They will be coming from communities, from cities, from states, from transit agencies proposing what they believe will best serve their community members.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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