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VIDEO: U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg Announces Nearly $1 Billion in Airport Investments at Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Thursday, February 15, 2024
"U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg Announces Nearly $1 Billion in Airport Investments at Charlotte Douglas International Airport."
Secretary Buttigieg speaks at Charlotte Douglas International Airport 

Watch the address here:  

WASHINGTON – Last month, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $970 million in funding for key infrastructure investments to improve 114 airports across the country at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. 

 The funding will help meet the growing demand for air travel and will launch projects that will improve passenger experience, accessibility, and sustainability while creating good-paying jobs. Improvements in airports include new baggage systems, larger security checkpoints, increasing gate capacity, and modernizing aging infrastructure throughout terminals and ground transportation. These investments further increase terminal sustainability and improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities.   

These awards are made possible thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which is delivering unprecedented opportunities to carry out infrastructure projects in communities across the country, including the $27 million headed to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport to improve the passenger experience for everyone. 

 The full transcript of Secretary Buttigieg’s remarks are below: 

Good morning, good afternoon, I guess it is now. Thank you. First of all, thank you so much, governor. It's always a pleasure to be with you. And even the more so when we're bringing good tidings, 27 million of them in this case, to help further the great work that's happening here.  

It does feel like we've been celebrating a lot of good news in North Carolina, whether it's the I-85 work happening west of here, the Alligator River Bridge on 64, the fantastic announcement we had not long ago about a billion dollars headed toward that Raleigh to Richmond corridor, and now our latest round of supporting for the growing important and deserving, Charlotte, CLT, Charlotte Douglas International Airport. But you're also, I think you know this, but you can be a very long way from North Carolina and still be hearing about the visionary leadership of Governor Roy Cooper. And you are lucky to have him leading one of the most effective state administrations in the United States of America. And he's been a great partner in developing infrastructure. So, thank you Governor for welcoming us here. 

Likewise, Mayor Vi Lyles, my fellow mayor. I always think first with the heart of a mayor when we're doing this work. Thanks for the warm welcome and for your leadership. It's extraordinary so many of the things you've been able to achieve are things that most cities only dream of in terms of the growth, in terms of the development, in terms of preparing for that. And I know the job of mayor's only gotten harder since I wore the title, although it would've been nice to have a trillion-dollar infrastructure package from the president back when I was mayor. But you have provided extraordinary leadership. 

And I want to thank the whole airport team. I want to thank Vinay and the board. I want to thank Haley and her terrific staff who have so much to be proud of here. 

They can't be here, but I want to make sure to recognize your delegation as well. The reason they can't be here is because there's a lot of important work and votes taking place on Capitol Hill right now, but you have some remarkable representatives and senators who never hesitate to remind me about how important it is to keep funding coming to CLT and other important assets here. In particular, I often speak with Representative Alma Adams and Representative Jeff Jackson about where we are headed and how we can work together. I had great conversations yesterday with both of your senators on the phone, and I want to go out of my way to recognize that Senator Tillis was one of the Republicans who worked across the aisle with Democrats to help get this done. And that matters. Bipartisanship yields results. 

Every time I come to an airport, especially this part of the airport, before you get to security where there are hellos and goodbyes and reunions, I always find myself wondering, as each passenger goes by, "What brings them here? What are they up to? Are they on their way to a job interview that they're nervous about? Are they getting ready for a vacation that they've been saving up for years? Are they about to see loved ones at a wedding or are they just in their weekly commute as frequent travelers?" What we know is, no matter what brings you to this airport, so much depends on the airport being ready to meet your needs. This is an airport that opened about 90 years ago with three runways and one terminal. And over the generations, it has grown and changed to meet the needs of a growing community and country served as an Air force base. 

During World War II, added more facilities as flying became more affordable and more central to our economy. It's also been a place that has been investing in safety. It is doing its part to make sure that we continue that extraordinary record by which flying, a form of travel that involves being propelled through the air by flammable liquids, has somehow become the safest way to travel in America or in the world. That doesn't just happen, that happens because of the people and the facilities here, which is why last time we were here at the airport I visited the brand-new air traffic control tower, which gives controllers a bird's eye view of the runways to help those planes take off and land safely and efficiently.  

And look at that taxiway geometry that's going to mean gains in efficiency and in safety. 118,000 people come through Charlotte Douglas International Airport every day, and just to put that in perspective, that's more than the entirety of the number of people who attended the Super Bowl, all walking through the halls of this terminal every single day.  

And so, it's time for this airport to be positioned to evolve again and grow. And that's why I'm here to congratulate this community and this airport on $27 million to modernize and improve the terminals here and improve the passenger experience for everybody who comes through TLC. 

That funding is going to replace 16 outdated jet bridges with upgraded models so that the walk from your gate to your seat is more comfortable, you're breathing safe, filtered air. And it's one of those things where everything just needs to work.  

Look, I'll be honest, not even most of us infrastructure nerds don't get up in the morning thinking about jet bridges most of the time. But if your flight arrived on time only for you to be waiting to get off of that plane because there's an issue with the jet bridge, you're thinking about nothing else until it gets solved. This team is working to make sure it never comes to that. And this builds on last year's $30 million airport terminal grant that's going to help expand the very, very busy Concourse E and millions more to build the new taxiway that is nearly finished with its construction which is no small feat, by the way, if you know how much earth needs to move in order to make that taxiway line up. 

And while we are here today celebrating this particular facility and grant, I want to note that this is one of 114 airports that we are improving with today's announcement alone, a billion dollars going out around our country to airports from the largest hubs to small rural centers. And what they all have in common is people count on them. Some of the projects that we're announcing today will help build entirely new terminals or expand existing ones. Other ones are going to deliver long overdue upgrades to baggage systems, expand capacity and add gates, fix those air traffic control towers, improve security screening processes, better connect to public transit and make air travel easier for travelers with disabilities.  

Though I am tempted, I will not recite all 114 project descriptions, but I do want to give you a flavor of the range of the work that we're doing. We're investing in some of America's biggest hubs like this one, and like Chicago O'Hare International Airport, the funding there is going to do everything from help make the corridors wider to having TSA screening be more efficient, even just better restrooms, which as a parent of toddlers I am now particularly invested in. We're supporting regional airports like in Appleton, Wisconsin, to add new gates with passenger boarding bridges there and build new solar and sustainability programs.  

But it's not just big terminals like this. We're investing in Standing Rock Airport in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The thing about their terminal is they don't have one at all. So, we're funding them to build one, and that's going to make it possible for general aviation pilots, and importantly, people on emergency medical flights, getting to trauma centers and their patients to have the benefit of a building and be protected from the elements. 

That's the range of the things that we can do with this infrastructure funding. And that's just aviation, across the board we're advancing 46,000 infrastructure projects and counting, rail, roads, bridges, ports, including as we said earlier, so many around here from the S-Line passenger train connecting Raleigh to Richmond to the I-85 Futures project, which is going to reduce traffic and build new multimodal options and help with supply chain so that even people who never travel on that corridor are better off because it's in better shape. 

And all of that will in turn be creating hundreds of thousands of good-paying, often union, jobs that are going to employ people from the places where these projects are happening. I also want to mention the broader context of air travel and I'll end with this because I think America has air travel on our mind right now. 

We're thinking about how to improve that, partly with regard to safety, something given new relevance by the 737 Max 900 incident in January. And so, our work has been not only to improve the comfort of our airports, but to invest in strengthening safety and in performance to make sure that there is the right kind of consumer protection to hold airlines accountable for taking care of their passengers. We pressed airlines and cooperated with them where that was the right thing to do, and the result of that collective effort is that last year cancellations were at 1.2%, the lowest level we recorded in a decade. And when there is a cancellation or a delay that an airline is responsible for, we got them to commit to do more for passengers with hotels, meals, ground transportation, and other accommodations. 

I'm very excited about it. And when the airlines don't do the right thing, we have set new records in the toughness of our penalties and helps get billions of dollars in refunds back to passengers. And I want you to know we're continuing that work. And that's going to include finalizing regulations for better transparency on ticket prices, timely refunds, compensation for cancelled or delayed flights, and another thing that has become newly important to me as a parent of toddlers, making sure nobody has to pay just to sit next to their kids.  

These are common sense improvements that I think are going to build confidence in our aviation sector. So, what all of this work has in common is that it's helping Americans go about their day, wherever they're headed, and for whatever reason they're there, with less stress and fewer costs so that they can focus on what really matters, which is the people who are waiting for them when they land.  

And it's in that spirit that I'm so pleased to be working together and that you, again, in this community and this facility, have a lot to be proud of. Thanks very much for the chance to be here and celebrate with you.