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Secretary Buttigieg Delivers Remarks on Bridge Investments in Albany County, New York

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Thank you! Thank you very much, Steve, for illustrating the importance of this infrastructure work. When we get it right with public sector investment, we make it easier for the private sector and your employees, your workers, the people count on you, to thrive. And when you think about all that added time when there's a problem—the cost of that for customers as well as the cost to your company, the cost in terms of emissions—that's exactly why we need to be taking steps like the one we're announcing today. 

I really appreciate the chance to be, as always, with a fellow mayor. Mayor Keegan, I see the pride that you have in this community, and hope that everyone in your community can benefit from this. 

I appreciate representative Tonka’s words and work. To be clear, we are able to announce good news like this because your member of Congress, and your Senators, were there with us when we were pushing so hard to get this infrastructure bill done. And as he mentioned, water is a part of that. Broadband is a part of that. That holistic approach, that he stressed, was controversial two years ago. A lot of people said if it isn't a road or a bridge, it isn’t infrastructure. But we know that water is infrastructure, because you need it to live. We know that internet access is infrastructure, because it's as important to economic success as a connection to the interstate highway system. But we also still know that roads and bridges are infrastructure, which is why we’re here today celebrating this good news. 

And of course, it's a real pleasure to be here with Governor Hochul—a governor who understands the importance of infrastructure. I know this is a busy season for you right now, and for Chairman Kennedy, and all of your colleagues getting this right. I just want to emphasize that good news continues to come because we have States stepping up alongside the federal government. At long last, after years and years of so-called “infrastructure weeks” that came and went without result, we’re working together now, all putting our money where our mouth is, to make this America's infrastructure decade. And Governor, it’s always good news when I see you. A month ago, as she mentioned, we were in Buffalo celebrating that good news. A month before that, we were with the President celebrating that key piece of funding for the Hudson River Tunnel. And we do not, for the record, play favorites—but there is more good news where that came from for New York and for every part of the country.  

And I had a chance to speak with both Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand over the last couple of days. And while they can't be here, I know both of them are excited about this. And again, we're thankful to both of them for helping make all of this possible.  

So, just over a century ago, there was a young, promising, intelligent, and curious Army Lieutenant Colonel who joined a cross-country convoy that was tasked with assessing our national infrastructure. And what he found, what he noted, was as dangerous and poorly connected patchwork of roads and paths whose condition was not just an inconvenience for local economies, but actually a concern for national security as well, because it was unsuitable for national defense purposes.  

That young Lieutenant Colonel, Dwight Eisenhower, went on, of course, to become President of the United States. And when he did, with that experience as part of his foundation, he set out to do unprecedented work on the highways and bridges of the United States of America. And the interstate highway system that resulted from that transformed travel and commerce, revolutionized public safety, made American ingenuity, the envy of the world, and arguably did more to knit this nation together physically than anything since the Transcontinental Railroad.  

And yet, over the decades, we allowed significant parts of that system to fall into a state of disrepair. Around 43,000 bridges nationwide are in poor condition. Closures, or worse, have become more and more common. And the American people feel the impact. 

When bridges have to close for repairs—or when they begin to fail—it sometimes cuts off an entire community. It adds time to commutes. It costs money for businesses, as we were hearing about. It can even delay ambulances and fire trucks from getting where they need to be to respond to an emergency. It means truckers have to take longer routes, which means consumers have to pay more for deliveries, and working parents have to spend more money on gas, and more time away from their kids.  

That's what this is really about. Bridges aren't just concrete asphalt and steel; they are engines of economic growth, and they are vital connections for communities. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration is working to deliver the largest investment in America's bridges since President Eisenhower created the interstate highway system. And today, we're proud to be announcing—in nine locations around the country—that we are repairing key bridges, including this Castleton Bridge right here in New York State, and we're delighted to be doing it. [applause]  

About 17,000 people cross that bridge every day, and this project is set to save them millions of dollars in travel costs, as well as saving taxpayers even more and maintenance costs. And it's about time, because if you look at that bridge, it represents the very latest engineering and construction that was available in the late 1950s. But today, it takes near-monthly repairs just to keep it in service. And while there is a great deal to be proud of around here, and the work that has been done to keep the bridge operating is heroic—if you actually Google the Castleton Bridge, you'll find a bunch of one-star reviews from travelers expressing their frustration about what it takes to drive over it.  

So thankfully, this project is going to include a new eastbound bridge deck, a crash-tested railing for safety, better drainage which is going to help prevent hydroplaning. And all of that is going to make the Castleton Bridge dramatically safer for the people who count on, and cut down on emergency repairs, which means fewer of those delays and detours and closures. And that's in addition to the construction project already underway to replace the westbound bridge deck.  

Together these projects are set to extend the useful life of this bridge by another 50 years, meaning that our children and grandchildren will one day have a chance to take advantage of it too—and, I would hope, leave their own five-star Google reviews about their experience.  

And again, this is one of nine bridges that we’re fixing in this latest round of grants. We've got projects in places like San Diego and Madison, as well as some of the most rural parts of the country, from the Oklahoma panhandle to rural South Carolina.  

All told, as of now, we have launched work on more than 4,600 bridge repairs, replacements, and rehabilitations across the country—from small overpasses that serve as the only road connecting a small rural town, to national iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge. What that means is not just about the physical infrastructure; it's about lives getting better, and a whole lot of good-paying jobs for American workers.  

And I want to emphasize, as my colleagues and I are fanning out across the country, that this is one of many ways the Biden-Harris Administration is Investing in America. And it’s working: Since the President took office, we have seen the creation of a record 12 million new jobs. We're seeing some of the lowest unemployment rates in 50 years. And the private sector has invested over $425 billion dollars in new manufacturing, including here in New York State. Seniors on Medicare, and millions more, can now get insulin for just $35 a month. 16 million more households already have new access to affordable, high-speed internet. And now, every week, we are seeing announcements like today's, and starting to see shovels hit the ground on infrastructure projects like this one.  

Now, unbelievably—and yet all too believably—even this can be a partisan or political issue in Washington, as we see legislation being put forward by some—I would say some, not all—of our Republican friends across the aisle, who would want to reverse some of the work that we're doing, which would, of course, increase the costs that we have been fighting to lower. 

But I think that when you get outside of the precincts of Capitol Hill, you find pretty quickly that this need not be a partisan or political issue, because everyone is better off when we have the right kind of infrastructure that we can count on for the rest of our lives.  

So I want to again commend and applaud all of the local leadership that has gone into making this project a success in a very competitive round of funding. And I want to thank everyone who has helped make it possible—under the President's leadership, and with support from leaders like Representative Tonko, Leader Schumer, and Senator Gillibrand—to partner with State leaders like Governor Hogan and her colleagues, to deliver on this infrastructure decade that's going to make us proud for many more decades to come. And with that, thank you again for being part of this celebration.