Official US Government Icon

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure Site Icon

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks Announcing INFRA Awards in Detroit, MI

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Thank you so much, Governor.

Before we begin, I just want to speak briefly to the news of the day and express my appreciation to all of the parties that stayed at the table and got to a result preventing the shutdown of our rail system that would have been devastating for our economy. Not a lot of us slept much last night, but we got good news into the wee hours of the morning, and we are so pleased that that result has been reached.

My Department continues to work to make sure that any of the impacts on service that happened just from the preparation for the possibility of a shutdown works through the system. And we will continue to support rail operators through the weekend as everything gets back fully on track.

So having said that, so pleased to be here in Detroit. We had a great visit yesterday with the President at the Detroit Auto Show.

And it's so great to be with leaders who understand the importance of infrastructure. Director Ajegba, I know we're keeping you very busy and we'll continue to, and appreciate what you and your colleagues are doing.

Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist, great being with you on the floor of the auto show --appreciate being reunited with you.

Izegbe, thank you for what you and your fellow neighbors have done to demonstrate that when we're talking about roads and bridges, most importantly we're talking about people and businesses and the opportunity that that represents.

Mayor Duggan, you have so much to be proud of in what is happening in the city -- the inclusive growth that you were fostering, and we're so glad to be a partner. He would not leave me alone about this and many other projects, so know that you have a strong advocate.

And I want to congratulate the Governor on the extraordinary results that her administration has been achieving here in Michigan, including -- importantly -- being able to "fix the damn roads," as she so often says, and look to the future when it comes to the infrastructure needs of this state.

I have to tell you when you have state leadership that understands the importance of investing in transportation infrastructure and working with local leaders and local communities, that makes it that much easier for us at the federal level to be a good partner. And we welcome that partnership and think it's going to continue leading to great things. So, congratulations, Governor.

And yes, having married into this state it's also a pleasure to be here -- especially on a good news day.

I've been on the road a lot, especially just in the time since I was last here. We've been visiting just a handful of the hundreds of new projects that we've been supporting across America -- made possible through the President's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

We are improving capacity at ports in Tampa and Los Angeles. We're making it safer for drivers and people who walk and bike -- and railroads -- in Sandusky, Ohio. We're modernizing airports from Houston to Spokane. We're supporting economic development from small communities, like Berlin, New Hampshire, to places like Minneapolis.

And after years, or even decades, of frustration as there was talk of infrastructure promises and infrastructure weeks that never materialized, we're thrilled that we are now seeing not just the legislation signed, as we did last year, but checks and funding signed off on this year to get projects in motion. And we're delighted to see shovels starting to go into the ground and dirt starting to fly.

Today is very important day for building on that momentum. Twenty-six communities around the country, including right here in Detroit, are getting good news.

And it's especially meaningful to see what that good news is going to mean here. As the Governor knows, fixing the damn roads means that unglamorous work of filling potholes and repaving -- and there's been a lot of that just to make sure the existing right-of-way is in a state of good repair.

But often it goes, literally, deeper than that.

It means making sure we are smart about the future and recognize some of the mistakes of the past. Sometimes fixing the damn roads means facing the repercussions of how the roads were originally built, who was included in that process and who was not, who was empowered, and who was displaced.

And when a generations-old piece of infrastructure comes to the end of its useful life, it requires us to decide in our time whether we're just going to put things back exactly as they were or whether we're going to build back better. And we know that some of the planners and politicians behind the decisions in the past built roads, like this one, through the heart of vibrant, populated communities -- sometimes even in an effort to reinforce segregation. Sometimes, simply because the people who lived there did not have the power to resist and force change.

Here in Detroit, when I-375 was built in 1964, they literally bulldozed the neighborhoods of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley -- displacing so many mostly Black Detroiters.

And now, this freeway -- a generation later -- serves to divide communities, primarily communities of color and low-income communities, from the central business district and recreational areas and other great assets downtown. And the freeway design is actually contributing to worse congestion and more traffic crashes on roads nearby.

The purpose of transportation is to connect. But we have seen examples in many communities, including here, where an infrastructure decision serves to divide. And we raise this issue not to wallow in it but to challenge ourselves to do something about it. And now we are putting our money where our mouth is.

Governor Whitmer, Mayor Duggan, local advocates, and the Congressional delegation have supported the application for federal grant funding to fix this. And then did exactly what good advocates should do, which is kept pounding on the door, explaining the difference that this would make in the community, and making sure that this got every full and fair consideration in the process.

And at the result of that is that today I'm delighted to officially announce that the Department of Transportation is awarding $100 million to transform I-375 to reunite this part of Detroit to a connected, thriving community.

This is a very big deal, a long time in the making, and it's going to mean more residents can move more quickly, more easily get between their neighborhoods and opportunities, and more safely walk, bike, and drive in their city. And I just love, I think it's a little bit poetic, having been at the Auto Show yesterday, to think about how those great American-made cars are going to be rolling on beautiful American streets, like the boulevard that's going to be created here.

It's going to foster more equitable economic growth and community wealth-building efforts. It's going to use green infrastructure like rain gardens and pervious payment that plays a very important role in preventing runoff from flood waters from reaching Detroit's water supply. So, it's an important part of the commitment to environmental justice as well. And, reflecting what I'd like to think of as Midwestern values around being responsible with our dollars, this project is going to save the state a significant amount of taxpayer money every year because that street-level boulevard design is going to cost less to maintain than this current sunken freeway with 15 bridges having to go over it.

So, if all this sounds like a big win for the entire community as it is, it's because it was designed in a way that had so much community input and so much community support.

And this is part of a program called INFRA, where we have over $1.5 billion going into grant awards across the country announced today, to build that world-leading transportation system, strengthen supply chains, create jobs, advance equity, and improve economic opportunity.

Now, thanks to the President's infrastructure package, which was supported by Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters, and so many members of your house delegation here, we're able to say "yes" to more projects than we ever have before in the history of this program.

But as I shared with the Governor yesterday -- and I want everybody to understand -- even with that added funding, this was an extremely competitive round. We got over $26 billion worth of applications for the $1.5 billion that we were able to award.

And what that means is -- for the 26 communities that are getting this good news today, including Detroit -- it reflects the clear and compelling value to the community that those winning projects demonstrated. And again, that alignment between state leaders and local leaders and community leaders is a very important part of what makes it possible for us to come in and be supportive with federal dollars.

Now, tempted as I am to walk you through every one of those projects, I will behave myself and stay brief, but I just want to give you a flavor of what we're doing with some of these.

So, to strengthen supply chains and lower the cost of shipping, we are upgrading tens of thousands of feet of track on a hundred-year-old elevated freight line that runs through central Chicago; constructing a new facility at the Port of Philadelphia; improving highways that are critical corridors for trucks in Clear Creek County, Colorado, and in the Twin Cities and Minnesota.

We're improving safety for truck drivers, and all drivers, really, by building new truck parking -- a major issue that we're seeing in our supply chains, in Florida in Tennessee. And we're repairing bridges in Washington State, in Wisconsin, and in Kentucky.

And we're making roads safer for people to walk or bike in Baton Rouge and adding a dedicated six-mile bus rapid transit line there so people can more easily get to where they need to go.

This is, of course, not just about building roads. This is also about building lives and livelihoods. And so we're especially excited about the good-paying jobs and the many good-paying union jobs that will be created through this infrastructure work. And I'm thankful in advance to all of the workers, all of the trades, all the professionals, who, no pressure, but who I expect to demonstrate a national model of success with the delivery of this project.

And it's part of an extraordinary year that we're having as the President keeps promise after promise with the infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act, the CHIPS bill, lowering costs for Americans and supporting more manufacturing jobs right here in the U.S.

So, Detroit, Michigan, you have a lot to be proud of. We are thrilled to partner with you, and I just couldn't be more delighted to congratulate you on this successful application.

Thank you again.