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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks in New Jersey

Monday, August 9, 2021

Big thank you to Commissioner Scaccetti for your work, as well as for the kind introduction.  

I want to thank all of the mayors and local leaders who gathered with us.  

And of course, I want to thank Congressman Malinowski, somebody I have admired since before he was Congressman Malinowski, who's been encouraging me to come to this district. To see in communities across places like Somerset County, Union County and the areas that really are as transit- and transportation-oriented as you can have. 

I also want to thank the Raritan Valley Line Mayor's Alliance for coming together and demonstrating in a state with a lot of different municipalities how leaders can speak with one voice.  

I was delighted to meet the Congressman’s Youth Advisory Council, which I think is a great idea. And having gotten a chance to meet them gives me that much more optimism for the road ahead…. and urgency about the future. Especially on this day, which is very fitting to be talking about these issues. Actually, for not one reason, but two. 

One being that legislation that's working its way through the machinery of the Senate as we speak. The other being the landmark IPCC report. A stark warning from the global scientific community about climate change, which I'll say more about in just a moment. 

I also want to mention that we spent some time today with labor leaders who represent the workers that we have belatedly come to call essential. Who have been there day in, day out, making it possible for people to get to work and where they need to be, sometimes at risk of their own health. And of course, we're all still marking the unexpected and saddening loss of AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka late last week. 

So, I'm here to talk about the potential in American transportation as it plays out in communities like those in New Jersey that we were able to see today.  

In Somerville, we were able to look at transit-oriented development where economic value, but just as importantly, the future of families, is being created in development that is happening because of the proximity of a rail line to get to work.  

But also seeing that trains are taking longer than they should. Not by any fault of the excellent team at New Jersey Transit and others who are operating them, but because we as a country haven't been investing to take them to the next level. 

And as we're meeting with the mayors, one of the themes that came up was that the cost of not having that one-seat service to New York that can add up to the average of 50 minutes for somebody. Just think about across a lifetime, what that means. 

Or as our host, the Westfield Mayor put it eloquently, that she couldn't always be the parent she wanted to be because of the stress and hassle and time that goes into a commute. 

We can do something about that. 

And having seen a few weeks ago also with Congressman Malinowski, literally in the guts of the Hudson River tunnels, what it means for one of the world's most important economic and human centers to be depending on what amounts to the absolute finest construction technology of 1910. And depending on that in 2021, we see what we're up against.  

But that brings us to the very good news that we have an opportunity, like we haven't had in my lifetime, to modernize our transportation infrastructure, to make people's commute safer, faster, more reliable.  

And that's exactly what this bipartisan infrastructure framework is going to do. Including the largest investment in public transit in our history. And the most we've done for passenger rail since Amtrak was created in the first place.  

New Jersey alone, from the bill that is working its way through the Senate today and tonight and will soon come to the House, New Jersey alone would expect to see over $4 billion dollars for public transportation.  

And I know that the leaders here in this state know exactly what to do with that funding.  

There's funding for big projects like the Hudson Tunnel Project and the broader Gateway program.  

Better infrastructure that will mean better commutes and a better quality of life in our communities. 

As well as creating good jobs. Good paying jobs. Union jobs. Both the jobs working directly on the construction we're going to do, and the jobs that are supported by being better able to get in and around these communities.  

And I do want to say that every transportation decision, every transportation policy and every transportation bill today is a climate decision and a climate policy and a climate bill, whether we call it that or not.  

And so it's important on this day, again, with this really shocking characterization of where we are as a society coming from the world’s scientific community, that we recognize what it would mean if we fully and properly supported public transit and rail as part of how to deal with the fact that the transportation sector is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. economy. 

So, we are thrilled to see that most rare of sites in today's Washington, which is Democratic and Republican elected leaders, working together to advance important legislation.  

And again, I want to thank all of the leaders who are here for hosting us, for the work that they're doing day in, day out. And to Congressman Malinowski for all that he is doing to make sure that Americans have the transportation system that we deserve.