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Transcript of Secretary Buttigieg Remarks on the Airport Terminal Grants Program at LAX: Los Angeles, California

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Thank you so much, Mayor, for the kind introduction—and more importantly, for your leadership and your friendship. 

Mayor Garcetti's leadership when it comes to infrastructure is, of course, well known in this community. It's also well-known and much admired among the community of American mayors—and very much admired and appreciated in the Biden-Harris Administration, too. You have so much to be proud of, Mayor, and it's always a pleasure and honor to be here with you to see the extraordinary things that you and your community have achieved. 

I want to thank Board President Hsu, and I want to thank everyone on the extraordinary, professional leadership team here at LAX, and all of the workers who make this place what it is. I want to recognize and thank Chris Hannan, and everyone with organized labor who have taken such extraordinary steps to ensure that we have the workforce that we're going to need to deliver on this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And that includes those who may not have had that tradition of many generations in their family having access to these kinds of jobs.  

And I am truly honored to be alongside Representative Maxine Waters: somebody I have had such respect for, long before my own time in public life, as someone who has challenged this country and my Department to think in wiser ways about the relationship between transportation and housing—and somebody whose support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is why we are here today.  

After so many “infrastructure weeks,” so called, that came and went without result; through Congress after Congress; we are now here thanks to leaders like her, and of course the leadership of our President, allowing us to have an infrastructure decade, of which the extraordinary things going on here in LA and at LAX are just a part. So, thank you so much for that. [applause] 

As the Mayor said, this, for me, is going to be a great trip. It's airports, ports, planes, trains, and automobiles. We're going to be looking at so many things, from shipping to subways—and also the human side of that, which is the most important part of all.  

Under this law, this package, we're repairing roads and bridges, ports and transit, fixing lead pipes and expanding internet access. And these airport improvements are going to make life better in every part of the country. 

Today we're awarding $1 billion for much-needed improvements at airports across the country in 85 different locations. We're talking about airports of all sizes, from small, regional ones—like the kinds of airports the size of the one I grew up with in my hometown—to major, globally recognized international travel hubs like LAX.  

And the investment couldn't come at a more urgent time: this moment of extraordinary challenge in transportation because of the consequences of the pandemic, and extraordinary opportunity in transportation because of the investments that we're making.  

Right now, more people than ever are relying on air travel to see their loved ones and move goods around the country and the world. And we've seen airports and airlines struggling to meet that extraordinary level of demand.  

In the short term, we have been engaging the airlines on the steps that they need to take to address these disruptions. We are doing our part to help, with our Department's resources and the FAA.  

But truly, for the long term, we need to modernize our airports too, making sure that they're prepared not just for the rest of the summer travel season, but for the next decades.  

This is the country that ushered in the modern aviation age. And yet today, in many listings, not one American airport ranks among the top 25 in the world. And we feel those shortcomings so often when we fly. 

So this is about taking care of the basics. We all ought to have a good place to sit, or wait, or eat, or use the bathroom when we're waiting for a flight.  

When we're checking in, everyone ought to be able to get through security, check your bags, find your gate, and reach it without any unnecessary delays.  

If you're traveling as the parent of young children, as Chasten and I have recently become, you've got to have a place to change your child when you stop for a layover.  

If you're traveling for work, you have to be able to find outlets to get your phone and laptop charged.  

If you have a disability or rely on a wheelchair, you ought to have the support you need to navigate huge, complex terminals.  

And very, very importantly, the ability to get to and from an airport is just as important as what happens once you're inside that airport and under its roof. 

Americans ought to have the best airports in the world. And now we have a chance to move toward that with these funds.  

These grants are going to help expand and improve terminals, make them more energy efficient and safer, and make them more accessible for travelers with disabilities.  

Right here at LAX, we are proud to be providing $50 million to support the historic modernization effort that is already underway. These funds are going to help reconstruct some 40,000 feet of terminal roadway, reconfigure the central terminal entrance, so it's easier to park, get a rental car, pick somebody up, or generally get into or out of the airport as easily as possible.  

And this is part of a broader vision for how to make it easier to get around, including coming and going from the airport. So I'm looking forward tomorrow to cutting the ribbon tomorrow on the new Crenshaw-to-LAX metro line, which is going to save time and money for travelers and airport workers alike. [applause] 

This is what good infrastructure investments look like. We're seeing it here across LA and we're seeing it across the country. 

Just to give you a few more examples from the grants that we're announcing today:  

In Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh International is adding a new landside terminal with a more efficient security check point, better baggage system, new customs area, and other improvements that will make trips faster, easier, and safer.  

In Orlando, they're constructing four new gates to serve aircraft of different sizes. 

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, they're expanding the terminal, adding new gates, improving bathrooms, and providing better passenger areas and TSA screenings lanes.  

In Texas, DFW is building a zero-carbon utility plant, providing clean energy to the airport. 

In Austin, they’re expanding capacity, adding multi-lingual assistance, and restrooms for people with disabilities.  

Huntsville, Alabama, is preparing to add new-and-improved escalators, elevators, nursing rooms, service animal areas, and other things to make the passenger experience more comfortable.  

Dexter Regional Airport in Maine—an example of a rural region where the airport can be so important—is replacing a 50-year-old terminal with a new, modern one four times larger, safer, and more accessible. 

New taxi and bus queues in Gainesville, Florida will join new passenger boarding bridges in Minneapolis-St. Paul, solar power in Washington, Iowa, and more and more improvements.  

The list goes on and on; 85 rounds of improvements, funded with this program alone this year, and more where that came from. [applause]  

We're excited about the better travel opportunities. But this is also better lives on the ground. And in that regard, LAX really is a role model for the rest of the country.  

Just a couple hours ago, I had one of the most remarkable and memorable meetings I've had as Secretary. And I don't say that lightly, because I find myself in some pretty interesting rooms in this job. 

But what I saw this morning, joining the graduates of HireLAX, hearing about their experiences, was truly moving—and something that we need to be looking at nationwide.  

They shared stories about how their lives, the trajectories of their lives, have been changed by the opportunities for good-paying jobs in construction. And they shared a contagious pride that comes from being able to take a loved one to the airport and say, "I put that sign in there," or "I was there when we built that pillar," or "I know why that escalator is where it is."  

Since its inception, HireLAX has trained over 250 apprentices—many of them women and people of color who had struggled in the past to find good-paying jobs—and prepares them for not just jobs, but careers that will pay well, often with union positions in construction, carpentry, plumbing, and more.  

And most importantly, these apprentices are people who actually live in this community. Because we've heard far too many times, stories of people who finally see investment come to a neighborhood near them, but don't get the impression that anybody working in those good-paying jobs looks like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood.  

So as we continue implementing the President's infrastructure law, we're going to make sure that a fair share of jobs and contracts go to workers who are from the communities where the projects are actually happening. [applause] 

I want to thank you again for sharing your stories with us, and for the great work that you're doing. It's truly inspiring.  

Airports like LAX are gateways to America's great cities. They are gateways to America itself: often the first thing you see when you arrive, and the last thing you see when you say goodbye.  

Earlier this year, Americans flew here from every corner of the country to see the Super Bowl. And in 2028, athletes will come here from every corner of the globe to compete for Olympic Gold. And most of them will pass through LAX.  

Thanks to the investments we're announcing today, and the other extraordinary work going on here, we know, when they do, we will be able to demonstrate that America really is a place with so much to be proud of, and the best infrastructure in the world. 

Thank you very much.