Less driving and safer cars. More transit, including high-speed rail. Smarter roads and bridges and better infrastructure overall — including more widespread broadband.
These are some of the trends New Yorkers and Americans more generally can expect in the next few years, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg, who spoke to Hunter and Cornell students November 2 at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, told the students that bi-partisan infrastructure legislation that passed in 2021 would help the economy and lift underserved Americans. He said that roads would be redesigned to be more resilient to climate change and that America would begin to see high-speed rail lines, which have crisscrossed Europe and Japan for decades but haven’t been built here.
“Infrastructure is the literal foundation of our economy,” said Buttigieg, who spoke in conversation with Roosevelt House Policy Program Director Basil Smikle and former Congress Member Steve Israel, the head of the Cornell University Institute of Politics and Global Affairs.
The secretary said infrastructure must be understood in its broadest sense — to include all those amenities that connect people to the economy.
“A connection to the Internet is as vital as a connection to the interstate highway system,” Buttigieg said. “That, of course, has in its DNA things like rural electrification and the TVA …. Nobody today could imagine that we would have just not electrified the entire country. One day, I think, nobody could imagine that we would have just not made sure everybody had the Internet or was a little closer to a transportation line.”
Buttigieg urged students to get involved in transportation policy by speaking up in local forums.
“In a city council hearing or a zoning board process or a Transit Authority Board Meeting or often a state assembly committee, depending where you live, you can just show up and be heard,” he said. “ So I hope that citizens, students, and residents are conscious of the chance that you have to influence the places where the decisions are made.”
The secretary said that he was bringing good news from Washington to New Yorkers, including funding for the Gateway rail tunnel connecting New York and New Jersey below the Hudson River and the Second Avenue Subway. Next week will mark the two-year anniversary of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Watch the event below.