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Transcript: Secretary Buttigieg Remarks at San Francisco Central Subway Transportation Press Conference

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Well thank you so much, Mayor. I will always proudly answer to the title of mayor, but I also acknowledge that it's only gotten more demanding since I wore that title. You've got so much to be proud of. So thank you for the warm welcome, and congratulations on everything that's gone on here.  

I want to congratulate Director Jeff Tumlin and thank him for the tour. And you and your team, Jeff, have so much to be proud of as well. And I know we're going to keep you busy with all the work ahead. So, to the Director, to SFMTA, to the union workers, who have been working for a decade—including during some of the worst years of the pandemic—to bring this to life. 

And to those who have spoken to what this means to a community: in this place, you can feel the distinctiveness. Not only the bustle, and the food, and the richness, and the culture, but the sense of belonging that is so very important, and that we're so glad this project will support.  

And, of course, it is my honor to be at the side of Speaker Pelosi—someone who has brought so many transformative infrastructure projects, like the Central Subway, to the Bay Area, but also has brought so many good investments to the entire country.  

I spent the last few weeks on the road. We've been to Tampa, Tulsa, northern Nevada, Minneapolis, Sandusky, Ohio, northern New Hampshire, southern California, today we were in the Inland Empire. What every single one of the projects that we saw there had in common is that it wouldn't have happened without the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law wouldn't have happened without the leadership of Speaker Pelosi—and we're so thankful for that.  

And the President recently signed the Inflation Reduction Act, something that's going to make such a difference to so many people here and across California. Another extraordinary legislative achievement, making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors, helping families save on their utility bills. And while unfortunately it didn't get any Republican votes in Congress, I do want to note that that bill has widespread bipartisan support among the American people—and that's one more reason it's a good thing that it got done.  

Meanwhile, we're hard at work implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, funding so many great projects. And the thing that I see and feel everywhere we go—and certainly felt it here during our visit to the Central Subway—is the passion that people bring. Not maybe because they're transportation wonks like me, but because they're passionate about their own neighborhoods, and communities, and families, and workplaces, and lives. And they know how all of that will benefit from the investments that are being made here.  

Now, when it comes to the Central Subway, there are so many to acknowledge.  

The late activist and Chinatown champion, Rose Pak, who over a decades-long career helped to save the Chinese hospital, fought to stabilize Chinatown rents, and played such a key role in the construction of the Central Subway. She’s someone who said that planning requires setting sights at least a hundred years from now.  

And that kind of long-term thinking is what we believe we need to bring to the investments that we're making today.  

And it was a long time that this Central Subway has been in the works.  

The Department was proud to support it a decade ago, under President Obama, with nearly a billion dollars in funds. And that’s going to pay dividends for generations to come—perhaps even 100 years into the future.  

It's going to better connect the most densely populated neighborhood in San Francisco to the social and economic life of the city. 

It'll bring tourists and residents alike to Chinatown for food and shopping, and make it easier for people who live here to reach jobs, schools, and resources in the rest of the city.  

And, of course, when most people can get around with public transit, that makes everyone better off. It means faster commutes, cleaner air. Even for the people who don't use transit, there's less congestion, which means that it truly is a win-win-win. 

And it's exactly the kind of project we're going to see more of, thanks to this Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that contains the largest federal investment in public transit in the history of the United States of America. And we're going to be hard at work delivering on that.  

In fact, the same program that is funding this subway has more than doubled under that infrastructure package, along with the increases to so many other programs, like the one that allowed us to bring that good news that I was thinking of as we drove up through SoMa, Mayor, in order to get to our first stop: upgrading Howard Street to make it safer, with bike lanes, pedestrian lighting, green infrastructure, and more, with $23 million in RAISE funds.  

I want to end with a broader thought about the historic work we’re undertaking this year and what it means for the people of this country. I'm, of course, proud of all of the transportation pieces of the initiatives and the vision that is going on right now under this Administration. But it is just part of a broader vision to make the entire country better off. To make it easier to afford to get through life. To protect our veterans. To reshore manufacturing jobs to America. And to make sure that families can thrive in a future that has been all too uncertain as we've looked at the years that have led us to this moment.  

And with that, I have the pleasure of turning it over to somebody who represents such an important part of what this is all about: the job creation that will come with this infrastructure spending. Rudy Gonzales, who will introduce the Speaker, represents the San Francisco building and construction trades, who we are both very eager to keep at work with the funding that's going on, and very much turning to to help prepare the workforce that we're all going to need and count on.  

And importantly, to ensure that that workforce is inviting—as I know you've been working on—to women and workers of color, who haven't had it as a family inheritance, but will be able to pass generational wealth on to the next generation of their families thanks to these good paying jobs.  

So, thank you again for the chance to join you, and Rudy, over to you.