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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at the I-15 Tropicana Interchange Project Launch - Las Vegas, Nevada

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Thank you, Governor, for the kind words. Thank you for your extraordinary leadership. Thank you for your understanding of the importance of infrastructure, and challenging us to make sure we meet the pace that you have set here at the state level, together with the terrific work, Director Swallow, that you and your colleagues at NDOT are doing – that frankly didn't wait for solutions to come from Washington to get the ball rolling, to lay the literal groundwork. So that now, now that we have been able to deliver this Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Nevada is poised to take such quick and effective advantage of those dollars. Thank you to everybody who’s part of this, union leadership, business leadership, people who understand that we're not just building stadiums or highways. When you have these kinds of construction jobs, you're building a living for people in Nevada and around the country. 

I want to thank Senator Cortez-Masto, and Senator Rosen, Congressman Horsford, Congresswoman Lee, and Congresswoman Titus, who joined us by video. I'll have more to say about them in a moment, but I just want to open by making clear that their support is directly the reason why we see this extraordinary infrastructure investment happening in Nevada and around the country. They have done so much to make it possible for us to have the tools that were just talked about by Congress after Congress, Administration after Administration, infrastructure week after infrastructure week, and now we are beginning a true infrastructure decade and you can see it all around us. 

I want to thank all of the leaders, from the local, and the state level, the mayor, and everyone who has helped to demonstrate what it looks like when people team up to get results. And Frank, I want to thank you and the Carpenters for everything that you and all of the Building Trades have been doing in order to make this region a model for economic development that benefits people. 

I’ve got to tell you I’m having some very strong memories coming back to Las Vegas, not just because of the many visits that I was making here a couple of years ago when I got to know many of you well, but because of the last time I was here. It was in August. I was all set to do a whole bunch of events. We had that that great event with Congresswoman Lee celebrating the work we're going to do to enhance safety on the Boulder Highway. And during that trip I got the most disruptive and wonderful phone call in my life. We had been on a list for the better part of a year, hoping for a chance to expand our family through adoption. And got the call, and it was one of those surprise kind of calls that had me on an airplane as quick as I could be. And the next morning, Chasten and I were holding our newborn infant twins in our arms.

So I just have all these strong feelings when I come back here because I have these associations with something that changed everything in my life. And I think about everything that's changed since then. Like every parent, my world has been turned upside down. Like every parent, I have a different relationship to the future, now that I spend every day training my replacement in this world. I think about the infrastructure that we're building that they're going to count on for the rest of their lives. 

And of course, I've been thinking about everything that has changed, even just in that short less-than a year since I was here last, for this community. Because back then we were still selling the idea of that Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Some of the Members of the House and Senate mentioned, it was declared dead many times last year before they saw it through, and the President signed it on the south lawn of the White House in November some six months ago. And now, here we are in a place that is experiencing such extraordinary growth in jobs, in population, in economic activity, which brings a lot of challenges to support that growth with adequate infrastructure to keep it going. And of course communities that have faced the ups and downs, more dramatically even than most around the United States in the last couple years, and met them admirably. Again, under the Governor's leadership, laying the groundwork, pun intended, for the the kind of work that we see, funding for the first time the state's infrastructure bank, moving forward on important projects like the one that we're seeing today.

And then we have this federal work that we're so proud of. We are helping communities across America, improving their infrastructure with roads and rail, trains and transit, ports and airport improvements, internet, water systems. It’s the biggest effort of its kind in the better part of a century. We've already announced almost a billion dollars headed to Nevada specifically, and that's just the beginning. 

And that's what brings us here today to this terrific project. And so I'm thrilled to join the Governor and leaders here to celebrate the beginning of work on this I-15 Tropicana interchange. We're going to replace the old bridge, improve access ramps, double the width of the sidewalks, add advanced traffic safety features that are known to reduce crashes. Bottom line: dramatically improve people's travel into and out of the Las Vegas Strip. 

I know that a lot of people have been spending the last couple years on Zoom, but as we've all felt now more than ever, real connection, real economic growth happens when people are together. Las Vegas knows that so well. And to be in person, one way or the other, you have to move, you have to travel. Maybe it's just down the street. Maybe it's from another state. Maybe it's on foot. Maybe it's by car. You have to get from one place to another, and when we rely on generations-old infrastructure to try to meet the needs of today, let alone, to try to prepare for the dreams of the future, it leaves us wanting. It leaves us less safe, it leaves us less efficient, and it limits our economic potential. That's what we're fixing today. 

We're improving a road design that was set up long before Las Vegas looked the way that it did today. And so, modernizing this intersection is going to help more people get to where they need to go more safely, more efficiently and more reliably. 

And people get something else back, that's right along, in my view, ranks right alongside the dollars and cents that are going to be brought into the economy and brought into family budgets through this work. People are going to get time back in their day. The only thing that we have at the end of the day, time spent with loved ones, time to think about what matters instead of being stuck in traffic. 

That's so important, alongside the importance of these jobs, the over 4,000 jobs that we’re so pleased to see that are directly connected to this project. But of course, there are all of the indirect jobs that are going to benefit from this as well. Later today I am going to be at the Carpenters Training Center meeting with a number of representatives from the unions there and the people who are literally building America's future and operating it, and maintaining it, with those good-paying jobs that can become good-paying careers.

But we would not be here if it weren't for the leadership of the folks you see on the stage with me. And so, again, I want to thank Governor Sisolak for making clear that infrastructure would be a priority and for recognizing the importance of transportation and of infrastructure in creating not just physical assets, but livelihoods. I want to thank Senator Cortez-Masto and Senator Rosen for their work in shaping this legislation and believing in it through all of those times when it has gone through those ups and downs and seeing it through. And you should know that they do not hesitate to get a hold of me when there is any opportunity they can think of for federal dollars to benefit the State of Nevada, as I would expect, and it's very much to your benefit. Representatives Horsford and Lee and Titus, who were there from the beginning, who knew why this was going to be so important and stepped up in a moment when a lot of people were skeptical of the idea you could get a bipartisan anything law done in today's Washington, in today's divided Washington, and yet here we are. So successful that we're seeing what I consider to be the sincerest form of flattery in the policy world, which is people who didn't support it wanting to be there to help celebrate the good projects that are getting done and are getting initiated thanks to this legislation. 

Now, the only thing that the former mayor in me loves more than a groundbreaking is a ribbon cutting. And so, what I'm really looking forward to over the course of the months and years to come is seeing these extraordinary efforts come to completion. And then most importantly of all seeing the lives that are going to benefit from this work. It's not about the transportation itself unless you're an infrastructure buff like me. It's about the lives that are going to be improved, and here in this community, whether it's for the people who come and go from this community, or the people who have been here all their lives, that's what this is ultimately going to do. It's going to make everyday life safer, it’s going to make everyday life a little bit better. And it's going to make this country stronger in the process. Thanks again for everything that you're doing. I'm so glad that I could be a part of it.