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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks in Phoenix, AZ

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Thanks everyone for joining us. I’m so excited and delighted to be back in Phoenix. I was just sharing my experience of fourteen years ago when—as a young campaign staffer, clutching a Map Quest document—I turned up at the corner of Central and Thomas, where I was supposed to work, and kept double-checking my map, wondering if I was at the right spot. 

Coming back to downtown Phoenix, it’s literally unrecognizable in many respects, with all of the growth and all of the transformation that's happened here.  

So much of that has been the result of wise public investment and leadership from some of the people I'm joining now.  

So it's so exciting to come full circle: To be with fellow mayors like Representative Stanton—once a mayor, always a mayor—who was, of course, part of that vision; my long-time friend, Mayor Kate Gallego, who is continuing to do remarkable things here; Representative Gallego, who it's also great to be reunited with; and of course, Mayor Giles and Mayor Woods, who are really modeling both working across the aisle and working across municipal boundaries to actually get things done on a regional basis, which is indispensable to progress on infrastructure. 

I'm also thrilled be here with representatives from so many labor unions. We've got carpenters, we've got laborers, transit workers, operating engineers. The entire country owes these essential workers a debt of gratitude for everything that they've done to keep our country running. And we're also so excited about the job creation opportunity that's in front of us. 

Over 2000 years ago, this area was settled by the Hohokam peoples, who built over 130 miles of irrigation canals—which at the time, made this the largest body of irrigated land in the Americas. I loved learning about that because I think it's a reminder that infrastructure has always been elemental to the story of this region.  

And now, we are seeing infrastructure that makes life possible in this area on a whole new basis.  

We just came out of a very instructive briefing and a hands-on tour of the South Central Light Rail Extension Project, where, in the next few years, this area will see eight new stations helping to connect residents to jobs, to education, and to resources. That’s especially important when you consider that South Central Phoenix is home to more people of color and fewer households with cars than other parts of the city. 

It's a neighborhood where 20% of those in the community are living in poverty. But with access to good and clean and affordable transit, we know that we can change that. 

That's why this project is so important, and it's why we're delighted that earlier this year, our Federal Transit Administration committed half a billion dollars to help bring light rail service to the people of South Mountain Village. 

And we recently recommended another $158 million in funding through our Capital Investment Grant program to help finish this project and build phase two of the Northwest extension.  

Now, this is one example of the public transit needs—in this area and across the country—that we are so focused on, rightly, as an administration and as a country right now. 

Valley Metro received millions of dollars to keep things running through the American Rescue Plan, and other COVID relief funds. I want to thank Representative Stanton and Gallego for their support for that. This is so important—especially for the essential workers who, again, did not have a choice in keeping transit running.  

Now is the time we need a generational investment in infrastructure. And that investment is arriving in the form of the President's American Jobs Plan—the core of which is contained in the historic bipartisan deal that was just announced, 

It stands to create millions of good paying union jobs—most of which are available, by the way, to workers, whether they have a college degree or not. And it contains the largest investment in public transit in the history of our country, so that agencies like Valley Metro can make long overdue repairs and expand. 

It's also got the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak was created, the largest investment in roads and highways since the Eisenhower administration, clean energy transmission, lead pipes, a better grid, universal broadband, and so much else that we need in this country.  

And importantly, 40% of the benefits of climate and clean infrastructure investments contemplated here will go to underserved and overburdened communities—including neighborhoods like those around South Mountain. 

We're delighted to be here and help show how leadership can move us forward, opening economic opportunity.  

Later today I'll have the honor of meeting with representatives from the Inter-tribal Council of Arizona, to discuss how we can continue working together to improve infrastructure in Indian Country. 

Later on, we’ll be talking about safety and rural infrastructure—visiting the construction site for the upcoming Riggs Overpass for State Road 347 in Maricopa: a reminder of how much more we can be doing as a country to connect rural and tribal communities.  

As I close my opening remarks, I want to comment that it matters that the people of Phoenix and the people of this region made the decision to vote for and publicly support transportation. 

The decision to vote for the necessary revenue—recognizing that investments in transportation pay off—shows the kind of community awareness that we are hoping to back up with more federal dollars. 

The answers rarely come from Washington, but more of the resources should. 

And that's exactly what we have a chance to deliver with the bipartisan infrastructure framework and the President's build back better vision.  

So with that, I have the pleasure of turning it over now to Representative Gallego