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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Monday, September 12, 2022

Thank you very much, Congresswoman, and thank you for encouraging me to come to your district and to see so many of the great things going on here for myself.  

We're having a great visit so far. We began at North Forest High School, with students who have a bright future in transportation. We were at Texas Southern earlier—your alma mater I believe, Congresswoman Garcia—where I saw the remarkable aviation and other programming they have here. So pleased be here at the airport, and later on we’re looking at the Metro. 

Mayor, it's great to be with you. A mayor whose leadership is so well known in the community of mayors that it reached as far as Indiana when I had that title, and is now an excellent partner for us in the Federal Administration. 

Director Diaz, you and your team have a great deal to be proud of here—and your enthusiasm is contagious. I want to thank all of the local leaders, county leaders, the labor leaders who are here, who we will be turning to in so many ways to deliver this. So glad to be joined by you. 

And a special thank you to the congressional delegation here. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, again, Congressman Al Green, and Congresswoman Garcia, we are so thankful for your leadership.  

I want to make it very clear: there is a direct line of cause and effect between their support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the funding that we are delivering to Houston and everywhere around the country. It is because they agreed to team up with fellow members of Congress, under the President's leadership, that we have a historic investment in everything from highways, to ports, to rail, to, of course, airports, transit, and everything in between. 

And we would not be here without their support—in addition, for the Inflation Reduction Act that we'll be celebrating tomorrow at the White House: lowering prescription drug costs, lowering the federal deficit, lowering energy bills for Americans, and doing so many other good things.  

And at our Department, we're hard to work delivering on that infrastructure law. And there are so many examples of that, including right here in Houston, as was mentioned earlier. $21 million from the infrastructure law from our Department to rebuild Telephone Road to make it safer: New sidewalks, better crosswalks, more protected bike lanes, protecting some of the most vulnerable road users, and some of the most underserved residents in this city.  

And I'll tell you, Mayor, and everybody who was part of that—including each of these members who strongly supported that application—this was a very competitive process. More than $10 requested for every $1 we could give out. So you should be very proud that you won in that process. 

And then, another $21 million to buy a new fleet of electric buses—meaning cleaner air, faster commutes, and less greenhouse gases and pollution going into the air from our transit.  

And then, there's our airports.  

We’re a country that ushered in the modern aviation age, and yet we feel so many times—especially when we're abroad and see something magnificent in one of those airports overseas, and think, “why shouldn't we have that?” And we should. And we will, thanks to the investments that we're making.  

When you're checking in, you ought to be able to get through security, check your bags, and get to your gate without any unnecessary delay. If you're traveling with small children, as Chasten and I are, from time to time, you've got to have an easy place to change your baby when you're at a layover. If you're traveling for work, you ought to be able to plug in and charge.  

And the improvements that are being made now are going to make a huge difference—both in the things you see, in the gates and in the terminals—and things most passengers won't think about, like the energy efficiency of the doors we just walked in through, the condition of the power plant, or so many other things that go on under the hood.  

Now, to date, George Bush Intercontinental Airport has received over $80 million through that Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. And that's going to make it faster and easier to do all of those things: check your bags, get through security, find your gate. 

It's going to reduce the carbon footprint of this airport. And it's going to drive jobs and economic growth in Houston for years to come—because, of course, we're also putting people to work building that new infrastructure with good paying jobs. So many good paying union jobs are being created through this legislation and this investment.  

I would add that there is a major opportunity for wealth creation for those who have been left out in the past. The history of airport construction in the United States includes, for example, some of the best engines to create thriving Black and Latino middle classes in America cities. And we're mindful of the opportunity on the road ahead here.  

And this is just one of the airports that have already got funding from that infrastructure law. We're doing a new terminal in Pittsburgh, new gates in Orlando, better bathrooms in Chattanooga, better escalators in Huntsville—and a general aviation terminal in South Dakota that's currently a mobile home will be replaced with the building that they ought to have.  

All of this will make it better for the American traveling public. And yes, I have a feeling with all of the additional programs that we're about to release, that we will be getting a lot more applications for grant funding from Houston and the surrounding area. And I trust that they will be strong applications.  

So, I just want to close with one other reflection, because we're here right in the middle of the flow—and we see so many people coming and going—and I want to acknowledge the many workers who are the true engine of this place. 

Whether it's the airport management team, the pilots, flight attendants, TSA, CBP, the folks who are handling the baggage, the people who are making sure that wheelchairs move, working the concessions, at the gate agents stands; whatever your role is at this airport, we acknowledge that infrastructure is your workplace. And you deserve a first-rate workplace, as all Americans do.  

That's what this is about. That's what we're proud to team up to deliver. And that's why I'm looking forward to returning again and again to see the further progress that's going to be made.  

Thank you again for the great hospitality, and the chance to celebrate this wonderful funding. Thanks very much.