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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at RAISE Program Launch - Tucson, Arizona

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Good morning. What a great day and what a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much to everybody who's joining. Thank you, Senator Kelly -- I'll have more to say about Senator Kelly in a moment. I want to thank the advocates like Willie, like Vanessa, who have had this vision for such a long time and made the case for it. 

I want to recognize and thank your excellent mayor, Mayor Romero, at a time when the work of local leadership has only become even more demanding, even more important. And I hope that that difficult, demanding job of mayor is just a little bit easier when you have an administration that has your back in Washington. We are here to help you succeed in every way that we can. 

I want to thank Representative Kirkpatrick for your leadership and for how much you care for this community, and it shows in so many ways. We're so lucky to be represented by her. 

To all of the local and state leadership -- we have county leadership here, we have tribal leadership -- thank you. Leaders of the Tohono O'odham people, the Pascua Yaqui tribal council members who are here, others from the tribal community, state representatives who are here -- who are such an important part of the story of how this future vision for transportation and for better life in this region is advancing.  

And in particular, I do want to thank Senator Mark Kelly for everything that he's done to make this possible. He and Senator Sinema were central players in negotiating this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is directly funding projects like the fantastic one that we're celebrating today. 

And, they did it on a bipartisan basis at a time when people had said you couldn't do anything on a bipartisan basis in Washington. But the President believes in it. I believe in it. Most people believe in it. But a lot of commentators turn up their nose at the idea that you could come together and get things done. And yet, here we are with clear bipartisan priorities, just like that CHIPS and Science Act that the Senator worked on, which is going to help bring more manufacturing to the U.S. and improve our supply chains. Just like that work on Burn Pits that cuts across politics. Politics slowed it down a little bit, but that bipartisan vote took place. I was honored to be there yesterday when the President signed that bill. 

And even though it didn't get a bipartisan vote in the Senate, the Inflation Reduction Act is certainly a bipartisan priority among the American people, who understand that no matter what party you grew up in, why it's a good idea for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices. Why it's a good idea to make sure that we can breathe cleaner air. Why it's a good idea to make sure that if someone is a wealthy person cheating on their taxes that there's accountability for that so the rest of us don't have to pick up the difference. That is something that is well understood among the American people. And again, I'm thankful to Senator Kelly and the others who helped get it done.

And again, that Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directly makes this good news possible. So, we're announcing important funding for Tucson and projects in 165 other communities across the country through our RAISE program. 

And when you look at the communities' applications for funding, when you speak with community leaders, you can feel that this is not just about technical matters: it is a matter of passion. 

You don't always think emotion when you think infrastructure. And when it works well, you don't have to get very upset about infrastructure.

But when there's something that doesn't work, when something isn't getting the job done, all of us feel it. But communities know what they need. And part of the philosophy of this RAISE program is that the designs, the plans, the concepts, don't all have to come from Washington -- but more of the funding should. And that's what we're here to deliver today. 

What we're launching today, over $2.2 billion across the country, is the biggest investment in communities in the history of this program -- yeah, we can hear it for that.

And what we have here in Tucson is a great example. The 22nd Street bridge is part of a critical corridor between Downtown Tucson and a number of historic and often disadvantaged communities to the east. 

But this vital bridge is in rough shape. Since 2005, weight restrictions have forced trucks, transit buses, school buses, and emergency vehicles to detour through Kino Parkway and the Barraza-Aviation Parkway to avoid that bridge. 

That means kids losing time every day on their way to school. People losing sleep. Parents heading to work on Sun Tran buses spending up to 30 minutes more than they would if the bridge were in good working order. Trucks having to go through low-income neighborhoods, bringing noise and emissions. Freight lines, below the bridge even, limited by the current configuration of that bridge. And a bottleneck for everybody -- wasting time and money, and making travel more dangerous. In the past five years, 141 crashes here. Ninety on the detour route. 

The community has been working towards addressing these issues for over a decade and secured most but not all of the funding to do it. 

So, this year, the City of Tucson with Senator Kelly's support and support from the other leaders you see here, also applied for those federal funds. And that's why today we are delighted to formally announce that we are putting in the final $25 million to help make this project happen and complete that bridge.

And once it's complete, people who drive, or walk, or bike from east to west will be able to do so more safely and more quickly, getting to jobs and parks and loved ones across the city. 

People have been told to anticipate new direct Sun Tran routes crossing the bridge for the first time in years -- a hundred and ten buses a day. We expect 120 school buses to cross the bridge daily, saving students time. 

Fewer crashes, and less pollution, and more goods moving more quickly and efficiently by truck and rail, which is part of not just our supply chain concerns, but part of the fight against inflation because it keeps shipping costs under control. 

And while they're at it, the city is going to install conduit and fiber to allow broadband internet to better reach the surrounding communities, too. 

Talk about a win-win-win. 

It addresses so many shared priorities. Sustainability and equity, which we are directly considering in this program, are going to be addressed here. And this is a shining example of something that we're doing across the country, in rural areas and cities alike, is making sure that people can see benefits from that improved infrastructure. 

I'll give you just a handful of examples. I won't do all 166 with you, but just to give you a sense of the range of what we can do with this funding --

In Louisiana, we're helping to replace a dilapidated pontoon bridge with a new one that will cut the travel distance in half for two communities and improve access to the jobs that residents rely on in industry there. 

In Berlin, New Hampshire, a community where their plan for the future of their economy centers on downtown, they have an issue, not a big one around these parts, with the snowfall -- over seven feet of snow coming a year. We're helping them recycle the excess heat coming out of a nearby biomass power plant, pump it under the streets and sidewalks, to help keep them snow free so that people can navigate downtown and boost the economy. 

In rural Washington State, there's a ferry that's the only way to access Lummi Island. It's generations old, with significant downtime, and even damage to passenger cars. We're going to help them replace it with a new, electric-battery hybrid ferry.

And a little closer to here in La Paz County, we're supporting the Colorado River Indian Tribes to fix an old, vital section of Mojave Road, which is currently dangerous for drivers. 

And in Phoenix, later on today we’ll be celebrating the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Rio Salado River to give residents of South Phoenix a safe, convenient way to get to jobs, school, and everything else they need to do.

So that's just to give you a sense of just a handful of some of the awards.

And just so you have a sense of how competitive the application here was, we still had about $6 of application for every $1 we were able to get out. But that is dramatically more funding than we've had in the past. And, this is one of just dozens of programs funded by this infrastructure law that we're using to modernize roads and bridges, ports and airports, transit, rail -- everything you can think of, for helping people better connect to the places, and people, and things that they need. 

So again, I want to thank Senator Kelly for helping to pass the law that made this possible. I want to thank the Senators, Representatives, the Mayor, the people of Tucson, for your vision that we are proud now to be a part of. 

Congratulations once again for putting together such a great, strong, competitive program. 

And of course, as a former mayor, the one thing I love even more than a groundbreaking or grant announcement is a ribbon cutting. So, I'm looking forward to seeing how this thing gets completed and being able to celebrate with you.

Thanks again and congratulations.