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December 15, 2020 2:30 PM, EST

Biden Introduces Buttigieg as Transportation Choice

Pete Buttigieg after being introduced by Joe Biden as his Transportation Secretary pick Pete Buttigieg speaks after being introduced as President-elect Joe Biden's choice as secretary of transportation. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via Associated Press)

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Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate and onetime mayor of South Bend, Ind., was tapped to lead the U.S. Department of Transportation under the Biden administration, according to the Biden-Harris transition team.

Buttigieg would be tasked with implementing President-elect Joe Biden’s ambitious climate change-centric infrastructure plan. Biden’s “Build Back Better” multitrillion-dollar proposal seeks to facilitate access to electric vehicles, promote renewable energy and modernize connectivity centers, such as freight hubs and commuter corridors.

If confirmed by the Senate, Buttigieg would succeed Secretary Elaine Chao.

“Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation. I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” Biden said Dec. 15. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better. I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”

“America has given this administration a mandate to build back better,” Buttigieg said Dec. 16. “And step one in building back better, literally, is to build. Americans shouldn’t settle for less than our peers in the developed world when it comes to our roads and bridges, our railways and transit systems. The U.S. should lead the way.”

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris added: “One of the most important parts of building America back better is ushering in a safe, modern, and sustainable transportation system that helps us grow our economy, tackle our climate crisis, and connect all Americans to jobs and opportunity.”

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), ranking member on the committee on highways, said Buttigieg would bring vision to the role. “Sometimes, building back better means breaking down the barriers that divide and disconnect us — from the underused highways to the busy high-speed roads that too often divide communities and create obstacles for daily life,” Carper said. “Pete has spent his life breaking down barriers of his own. And now, poised to serve as the first openly gay Senate-confirmed member of a presidential Cabinet, Pete Buttigieg is breaking down barriers again.”

As a presidential candidate, Buttigieg had proposed an infrastructure plan aimed at addressing climate change, as well as improving connectivity along commercial corridors and modernizing transit systems. Specifically, his campaign called for dedicating $10 billion to recruit and train employees, providing $100 million to expand apprenticeships and investing $10 billion in drinking water programs. Buttigieg also proposed allocating $2 billion for infrastructure grants and $1.5 billion for climate and flood resilience programs.

Specific to highway programs, the former mayor proposed transferring $165 billion into the Highway Trust Fund to keep the account solvent through 2029. The fund relies on revenue from the federal fuel tax. Additionally, he noted potential benefits from adopting a vehicle-miles-traveled fee to fund highway programs.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the transportation panel in the House, said, “Pete’s infrastructure proposal for the country not only focused on fixing our existing roads and bridges, but also investing in the national passenger rail network, boosting public transportation and investing in rural communities, all while putting an emphasis on 21st-century needs such as broadband internet and electric vehicle infrastructure.”

American Trucking Associations welcomed Buttigieg to the post.

Chris Spear

Spear

“Transportation is an issue that touches all Americans — urban, rural, coastal and in the heartland of our nation,” said ATA President Chris Spear on Dec. 15. “Having served as a mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans, and how important it is to solve them. On behalf of the trucking and freight transportation industry, I’d like to congratulate Pete Buttigieg on his nomination to lead the Department of Transportation. We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with him to begin the important work of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.”

Jeff Davis, senior fellow at the Eno Center for Transportation, compared the president-elect’s pick of a former mayor to those by past presidents, such as Bill Clinton, who had entrusted former mayors to run transportation affairs.

Jim Tymon, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said the former mayor understands the vital role transportation plays in people’s lives. He said AASHTO’s members “are appreciative of the secretary-designee’s call for robust investment in our multimodal transportation system and his commitment to improving transportation safety. We look forward to working with him and the administration of President-elect Joe Biden to deliver an integrated, efficient and innovative national transportation system.”

A military veteran, Buttigieg has worked as a consultant to McKinsey & Co., and served in the Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer. The Harvard University graduate was a Rhodes Scholar.

Separately, Biden is expected to select former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm as secretary of the Department of Energy, according to published reports. The Biden-Harris team has yet to issue an official announcement. Granholm is credited with helping to expand Michigan’s clean energy industry as governor.

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