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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks in Chicago, IL

Friday, July 16, 2021

Thank you so much. Thank you, Senator (Duckworth), for your leadership. And I'm not just saying that because you're on the committees that oversee my work, although it doesn't hurt. But it's also so admirable, and I want to applaud the work, in particular, that you've done on accessibility. 

As we marked one anniversary of the ADA, she's pointed out it shouldn't take until the 50th anniversary of the ADA to be able to say that a system is completely accessible. And that is part of the President's vision and the administration's vision as well.  

Senator Durbin—a member of the leadership in the Senate that is guiding this critically important bill toward passage—we can't wait for that vote for you and your colleagues to take.  

Mayor, it is a pleasure to be with you, thank you for your leadership. It has never been more demanding or more difficult, or more important to be a mayor in America, and your leadership is nationally recognized. 

I appreciate, as a former mayor—and very briefly, a former Chicagoan—the work that's going on here.  

I want to thank all of the members of the House who are here. The House passed an extraordinary piece of infrastructure legislation, as well as the American Rescue Plan that's keeping operations like the CTA going. 

Representative Rush, thank you for the welcome to your district. Representative Garcia, whom I spoke to, really wanted to be here and was unable to, but is here in spirit. Representative Newman, Representative Robin Kelly, Sean Casten, Congressman Ben Quigley. Representative Foster, thank you for everything that you're doing.  

And I want to thank CTA President Dorval Carter for sharing this with us, and also for everybody who you represent – the essential workers. I know we've got a lot of union leadership here today too, who didn't have a choice to work from home, because lives and livelihoods depended on their coming to work every single day. We are thankful for you and we support you in this administration.  

I've been thinking about a number that CTA President Carter shared with me, which is the amount of time it takes to get from Altgeld Gardens to downtown Chicago. Residents there, in order to get to a job, have to take an hour, sometimes an hour and a half in order to be able to get to work. Which, coincidentally, is about as much time as it takes, if you happen to have a car, to get from South Bend, Indiana, where I grew up, to the heart of Chicago in the loop.  

We have a community next us in South Bend called Roseland, Indiana. And I love Roseland, Indiana. But it should not take longer to get to a job in the heart of Chicago from the Roseland community of Chicago than it does from the Roseland community in Indiana, 90 miles east of here. And this extension is going to change that. 

So that's just one example of why I'm so excited to be here. For an Administration that is prioritizing safety, climate, jobs, equity, and a view to the future in our transportation policy, there's no better place to talk about infrastructure than Chicago. Infrastructure made Chicago, because Chicago made infrastructure.  

When, around here, they were proposing to do things like invent the floating foundation that makes it possible to have a skyscraper—or to take the river and basically make it roll uphill—I'm sure some people back then were wondering if that was so-called “traditional” infrastructure too. It may not have been traditional at the time, but it created the tradition that we now count on and that fuels an entire region. We’ve got to support that with good policy.  

We’ve got to support the safety improvements that are represented by the modernization that has already largely been achieved by CTA here. And we were proud to support things like the 95th Street Station with TIGER Grants, in prior administrations, out of the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

When you think about equity—both in terms of who has access to transit and transportation, and who has access to the jobs that are created by new transit and transportation projects—we know we've got to do better, and that is part of the President's vision, and part of this legislation.  

When it comes to climate, it doesn't have to be called to climate bill to be a climate bill. Because transportation is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. economy. Which means every time we get somebody a choice to take quality safe, effective public transit, instead of having to drag two tons of metal with them to wherever they're going and park it somewhere, we are also benefiting the President's ambitious climate goals. 

It’s a matter of all of these things taken together. That's why we're so excited about the bipartisan infrastructure framework that's going to create millions of good paying American jobs—union jobs, I might add.  

It represents the largest investment in public transit in the history of the United States. The largest investment. We’re proud of that. 

The largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak.  

The most we've done on roads and bridges—in this city of extraordinary and memorable road and bridges—since the Eisenhower Administration.  

And funding for safety, including reducing traffic fatalities that are on the rise right now in this country, and where we've seen a disturbing amount of racial disparity. 

So, we have seen that Chicago understands all these things.  

I also want to applaud the decision to move toward electric buses—including a vision to have every single one of the 1,800 buses in the city electric in the future—with help from the FTA’s Low and No Emissions grant program. 

So, the point is, I know there's been a lot of talk about infrastructure in this country. I know that infrastructure week has come to be—as Representative Krishnamoorthi, a fellow member of the complicated surname club, put it—something that sometimes arouses snickers in Washington. But we have a chance to actually get it done, and to deliver it right here to the Southside of Chicago. And when we do, we're going to have a lot to be proud of.  

So I'm delighted to be here. I admire the work that's going on, and I think we have a little bit of time to take some questions.