Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visits Phoenix to discuss infrastructure issues

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a trip to Arizona on Nov. 19 to discuss Biden's new infrastructure bill, which has just been signed into law.

The secretary made three pit stops in the Phoenix area, where he covered everything infrastructure in an effort to promote President Biden’s new, $1 trillion infrastructure deal. The deal contains billions of dollars to improve infrastructure, from roads, bridges and broadband to water supply, ports and power lines, promising to help average Americans along the way.

President Joe Biden and his administration have spent the week promoting the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that Biden signed Monday, which many Democrats hope will boost the president’s lagging approval rating.

"How many people would benefit from saving money for the car by getting on transit or be able to afford an electric vehicle and never have to worry about gas prices again?" said Secretary Buttigieg.

Buttigieg called it "the most transformational investment in infrastructure in generations."

Buttigieg also announced a $158 million grant to pay for a 1.6-mile (2.6 km) northwest extension of the Phoenix light rail system. The money comes from a separate pot of money already approved before the measure signed this week.

From the new bill, Arizona is expected to automatically receive at least $7.9 billion, most of it for highway projects, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budget arm. It also includes money for bridge improvement and replacement, airport improvements and public transit, including the Phoenix light rail and potential funding for Amtrak service between Phoenix and Tucson.

It also includes $100 million for the expansion of broadband internet to new areas and to provide $30 vouchers to help people with low incomes afford an internet connection. Water infrastructure, electric vehicle charging stations, wildfire prevention and cybersecurity also get money.

Local governments also can apply for grants that would bring significantly more money to the state.

Buttigieg made stops at former Metrocenter Mall, Sky Harbor Airport

Secretary Buttigieg made his first stop at the former Metrocenter Mall, and the $158 million METRO Light Rail extension connecting East and West Phoenix.

"I think it’s going to be beneficial to all of us union carpenters, myself and my crew, so lots of good stuff," said Carpenter Foreman Russell Reitz.

Secretary Buttigieg also toured Sky Harbor Airport, touting the $200 million for upgrades to add more flights and amenities, as well as to speed up takeoff times.

"I’m all for improving or our outdated infrastructure, but I’m also worried about the cost. My children and grandchildren will have to bear the burden of that," said Brad Klassen, who is visiting the airport.

Most Republican lawmakers are worried about the price tag, and while Secretary Buttigieg kept calling the infrastructure plan a bipartisan law, very few Republicans voted for it.

The $1.2 billion infrastructure law will go to fix roads, bridges, airports, train and bus services. It would also upgrade broadband, electric grids and water supply - much of it to underserved communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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