Liberties Tied to Safe, Secure Transit System, Buttigieg Says

Secretary Connects Fulfilling Life to Efficient Infrastructure
Capitol Agenda Eugene Mulero

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Immanuel Kant. John Locke. Aristotle. These were philosophers who dared ask: What is the meaning of life? Addressing the country’s mayors in Washington last week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg took a turn at tackling the big question.

For the nation’s top infrastructure officer, the actual physical connectivity that is realized via transportation modes is an axiom inseparably woven into life’s tapestry. The human experience as we know it, he explained, is one lived on a palpable transportation spectrum. The secretary insisted transportation has, is and will be a constant force facilitating everything real or imagined. Without its benefits, the human condition would be devoid of transcendence.

“If the meaning of life for you is to be a good parent to your kids, you can’t be fully present for that if you’re not home in time because the road isn’t in good shape. If the meaning of life for you has to do with your faith, you’re not in a position to concentrate on that if you are distracted by uncertainty about whether drinking water is poisoning your children,” Buttigieg said during the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ winter meeting Jan. 19.

“The meaning of life for you has something to do with entrepreneurship,” he continued. “You won’t be able to fully live a life of your choosing if the public works that you count on aren’t available and you have to worry about working around them.”

The secretary’s disquisition suggests that in enacting the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in 2021, President Joe Biden played a de facto role in contributing to life’s meaning. The bipartisan law is a tool for paving the way for myriad infrastructure improvements. As Buttigieg proposed, new tranches of funding for bridges, tunnels and everything in between will help make the 2020s America’s “infrastructure decade.” To fully maximize IIJA’s potential, however, careful attention must continue to be devoted to safety.

Pete Buttigieg


For Buttigieg, the administration’s aim is to achieve zero fatalities throughout the transportation network. At the meeting with mayors he cited places such as Hoboken, N.J. The Garden State’s Mile Square City is among the communities with streets currently thriving in a fatality-free environment. Yet, with federal data determining there were nearly 43,000 traffic fatalities in 2022, work remains. The secretary declared, “We’re now here to support that work with resources that have not existed in my lifetime to help cities get their job done.”

A recent progress report of the U.S. Department of Transportation outlined the road ahead for the Biden administration. The picture for creating a vision of a zero-highway-fatality landscape remains complicated.

“At the Department of Transportation, safety is our north star. Yet, in recent years, we have seen alarming increases in roadway deaths. After spiking during the pandemic, these numbers are starting to slowly come back down, but we must continue working to address this urgent national crisis,” according to “Delivering Results for America, USDOT Progress Report: 2021–2023.”

“In 2022, the department released the National Roadway Safety Strategy, a comprehensive plan to save lives on America’s roadways. To that end, we have launched historic new safety programs to make it safer for people to walk and bike, and to travel by car, truck and bus.”

The Week Ahead (all times EST)

Jan. 24, 10 a.m.: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Oversight of Toxic Substances Control Act Amendments Implementation.” Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, will appear before the panel. Watch the hearing here.

Jan. 25, 10 a.m.: The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program: Local Perspectives on Challenges and Solutions.”

Freight Corridor

Robin Hutcheson, head of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is stepping down. “I thank Secretary Buttigieg for his leadership and confidence, and recognize the dedicated team of professionals at the Department of Transportation who work hand in hand with industry partners to serve the American people and keep our country moving forward,” she said in a statement Jan. 19.

Legislative Docket

The U.S. House last week gave unanimous approval to the Moving Americans Privacy Protection Act. Introduced by Reps. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the bill would safeguard certain identifiable information of individuals moving internationally.

Bill Pascrell (left), Mike Waltz

Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), left, Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) 

“The personal information of every American should be safe and secure,” Waltz said Jan. 18. “However, due to the current public disclosure of cargo manifests, our service members and their families experience a higher risk of identity theft and fraud as they move abroad. It is critical we take the necessary steps to protect them against dangerous and fraudulent activity. That’s why I am proud to pass legislation in the House to secure international travel and help safeguard the livelihoods of Americans.”

Various stakeholders endorsed the measure. “The American Trucking Associations’ Moving & Storage Conference is proud to serve our military and other families when they return home to the United States,” ATA President Chris Spear indicated. “Our members handle both household items and personal information with care, which is why they have long advocated for Congress to make common-sense changes to disclosure requirements on shipping forms.”


This year’s crafting of comprehensive water infrastructure legislation will include significant input from House lawmakers. The sponsor of the upcoming Water Resources Development Act of 2024 hosted a forum this month so colleagues could share proposals for the bill’s consideration.

“WRDA is a critical legislative vehicle, ensuring communities’ water resources needs are met nationwide,” Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee chairman, said Jan. 11. “Navigation, flood control, beach nourishment, ecosystem restoration, hydropower, water supply and recreation at [Army Corps of Engineers] facilities are all important issues we will address in this year’s WRDA. In other words, our nation needs WRDAs to keep our communities safe and functional.”

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

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