Buttigieg Celebrates Local Transportation Projects

Reconnecting Cities is a Window Into Biden’s Infrastructure Agenda
Capitol Agenda Eugene Mulero

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In many cities and towns, the day begins at the bus stop, the subway station or on a busy stretch of roadway. People on their daily commutes often expect or hope their journeys will be safe and smooth. Access to transportation is essential to this way of life. For some, a sense of community would be an added value.

Yet, the great American experiment is one in which dozens of major roadways or infrastructure projects contributed to a town’s sense of disconnection; basically trains, transit routes or roads splintered certain neighborhoods.

On March 13, President Joe Biden announced $3.3 billion for a program designed to reconnect aspects of cities and towns. By seeking to improve, or just ameliorating, local connectivity across every mode — from roadways to sidewalks — a sense of community can be enhanced or even realized.

“It’s about bringing people together,” Biden explained for an audience in Milwaukee.

Grant recipients included neighborhoods from Portland, Ore., to Philadelphia. One example is the Reconciliation, Regeneration, and Reconnecting the Selma to Montgomery Trail through Equitable Transportation Infrastructure in Montgomery, Ala.

As DOT explained, “The project identifies many disenfranchised local communities that will benefit by enhancements to the trail. These enhancements will allow the city of Montgomery to reinvest in foundational transportation solutions in Historic West Montgomery to facilitate the renaissance of the Selma-to-Montgomery Trail community.”

Indeed, myriad communities continue working on improving all types of connectivity. Now, in partnership with the Biden administration, that is certainly more attainable.

“The $3.3 billion for these historic programs will help right the wrongs caused by past infrastructure decisions and improve the accessibility and safety of underserved communities around the country,” observed Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), ranking member on the House transportation committee. “On the heels of the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, we are thrilled to have secured major federal funding to improve our transportation infrastructure along the Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail,” added Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) on March 11.

Biden’s transportation policy representative, Secretary Pete Buttigieg explained that 132 projects had been awarded grants through what is known as the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity discretionary programs.

The funding is aimed at reconnecting communities deemed to have been disconnected years ago by an infrastructure project.

Addressing the National League of Cities on their centennial, Buttigieg elucidated the reconnecting theme two days prior to the grants’ formal announcement.

Pete Buttigieg


“Every local leader understands the importance of connection,” the secretary told the group’s conference gathered in Washington. “As local leaders, you are walking symbols of what people in your community — even very diverse and sometimes divided communities — all have in common. And that’s what transportation is about, too — symbolically and literally: connecting.

“Local leaders understand that physical mobility is inextricably connected to social mobility. And we’re here to support you in this, too. … I know that pedestrian bridges and bike lanes and potholes to some short-sighted folks aren’t considered the most glamorous and searing issue of our time. But we know how important that is because those connections aren’t just connections to the other side of town. They’re connections to opportunity.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

March 20, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Examining [Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances] as Hazardous Substances.”

March 21, 10 a.m.: A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee meets for a hearing to examine the status of rural highway and transit programs. Watch the hearing here.

March 21, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Spectrum and National Security.”

March 22: Funding authority for the Pentagon and other federal agencies expires.

Freight Corridor

Keeping it “Jersey Strong” in the Garden State.

Legislative Docket

President Joe Biden’s fiscal 2025 budget request to Congress would provide the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration $964.5 million.

For other agencies, the White House is requesting for the fiscal cycle beginning Oct. 1 that the Federal Highway Administration receive $62.8 billion, the Federal Transit Administration receive $16.8 billion, the Federal Railroad Administration receive $3.2 billion, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration receive $1.2 billion.

Overall, the White House’s fiscal 2025 budget request for federal government operations came in at $7.3 trillion. Addressing reporters at the department’s headquarters March 11, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended the president’s budget.

“I would like to believe that the priorities that were laid out — the infrastructure gains that the deputy secretary walked through, the aviation safety improvements and enhancements that the administrator walked through, a measure like making sure that private jets pay their fair share into the system or any of the infrastructure priorities that we are talking about and asking be funded in this budget, including hiring more air traffic controllers — ought to be a bipartisan priority.”


​​The National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to announce further details about the 2023 derailment of a freight train in East Palestine, Ohio. The independent agency indicated it will meet June 25 for its “final board meeting on the 2023 train derailment and subsequent hazardous material release and fires.”

Jennifer Homendy

National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy (Ting Shen/Bloomberg News) 

“The NTSB is returning to East Palestine for our final board meeting for the same reasons we went last summer: because the communities most affected by this tragedy deserve to hear our findings in-person and in real time,” NTSB Chairwoman Jennifer Homendy said last month.

On Feb. 3 of last year, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine. A Senate committee responded by approving the bipartisan Railway Safety Act. Industry stakeholders also announced safety enhancements across their operations.

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We publish Mondays when Congress is in session. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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