Potential Transportation Initiatives at the State Level Under DOT Secretary Buttigieg

Published: February 08, 2021

Administration TransitionArchitecture Engineering and ConstructionInformation TechnologyProfessional ServicesTransportation

Updated February 8, 2021. Biden and Buttigieg's view on transportation initiatives will be influenced by climate change, economic growth and improving infrastructure.

Updated February 8, 2021

The National Asphault Pavement Association has published a table comparing the transportation infrastructure initiatives of the prior Trump administration to the current Biden administration which can be viewed here. The two significant differences are the cost and focus on climate.

Biden's Build Back Better plan has an investment of $2 trillion over 4 years compared to the prior administration's of $1 trillion over 10 years. Biden's plan also includes initiatives toward encouraging clean energy, the manufacturing and purchasing of zero-emission vehicles, and expanding infrastructure including installation of more electric vehicle chargers. The prior administration's plan did not specifically address infrastructure in relation to the climate.

Updated February 3, 2021

Pete Buttigieg was sworn in as Transportation Secretary on February 3, 2021 and has provided some further, but brief, insight into the initiatives we are likely to see under his leadership. The Secretary understands the economic impacts the pandemic has had on the transit industry, and will strive for initiatives toward regaining the public's trust in an effort to increase ridership in mass transit. Buttigieg is also expected to play an important role in President Biden's climate and infrastructure initiatives. There will be an emphasis on zero emission mass transit vehicles and the expansion of electric vehicle infrastructures.

Per an email sent to Department of Transportation staff, obtained by the Associated Press, Buttigieg said he will spend the next few weeks speaking with employees, likely in an effort to establish the Department's initiatives under the new administration. It may be several more weeks before we begin to see specifics on these initiatives.

Original Article Below (published December 21, 2020):

The Biden-Harris administration has nominated Pete Buttigieg to be the next Secretary of Transportation. Taking a look at his record as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, along with Biden’s plan to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future, may give some insight into the initiatives the Department of Transportation may prioritize under the Biden-Harris administration.

As Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg invested in innovative public-private partnerships to improve the city’s transportation. He also launched a “Smart Streets” initiative that redesigned streets and spurred economic investment within the city. In his presidential bid for 2020 Pete Buttigieg emphasized communities to reimagine the future of their economy by creating good jobs and a resilient infrastructure. As a candidate, he also proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan which included $165 million for the Highway Trust Fund and updating and fixing 50% of all roads and bridges in poor conditions by 2030 ($50 billion of which would have been in state grants). Buttigieg’s plan also proposed advancing autonomous technology and encouraged the deployment of electric vehicles.

With climate change being a priority for the incoming administration, it is without a doubt that the transportation industry will play a large part in reducing the negative impacts to the environment. We will likely see the Department of Transportation push for more “green” initiatives in public transit and encourage the same for private vehicle owners. This could happen in various forms such as alternative fuels, electric vehicle incentives and seeking to power the transportation sector using cleaner fuels to result in a reduction of air pollution, bettering the health of Americans.

The incoming administration also seeks to transform the crumbling transportation infrastructure which include roads, bridges, rail, aviation, ports and inland waterways. Another objective will be to improve America’s rail system by reducing pollution and using more electricity, create jobs, lower commute times and spur investment. Public transit will be a focal point for the administration as their goal is to provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents a high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation option through federal investments that create jobs while meeting the needs of the cities. Some examples include light rail networks, improving existing transit, and creating more infrastructure for e-scooters, micro-mobility vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians. Biden will look toward tapping into existing federal grant and loan programs at the U.S. Department of Transportation to speed up these initiatives.

There are also plans to create 1 million new jobs in the auto industry, including domestic supply chains and auto infrastructure. 

While Buttigieg will be leading a federal agency, it is possible the Biden-Harris administration may follow in the footsteps of the Obama administration and offer cities, regions and localities the opportunity to lead with their own visionary ideas for improving and updating their local transportation infrastructure and systems.

The administration’s overarching goal will be to spur economic growth via a clean energy revolution in Transportation and Biden's anticipated push for a bipartisan infrastructure package in which the Transportation Secretary will play an important role. Biden and Buttigieg appear to be on the same page for their vision of improving and advancing transit in the United States.

Sources:

Biden-Harris Transition - Domestic Nominees and Appointees - buildbackbetter.gov

The Biden Plan To Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure And An Equitable Clean Energy Future - joebiden.com

What Pete Buttigieg would bring to the Transportation Department - Utility Dive

CoMotion LA Opens With Eye Toward a New Administration - govtech.com

Buttigieg says Transportation Dept will push ‘bold’ thinking - washingtonpost.com