Cantwell Questions Buttigieg on Washington State Infrastructure Priorities, Secures Important Commitments on Aviation Safety

Cantwell: “To say we need infrastructure investment is an understatement”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing with Mayor Pete Buttigieg, President Biden’s nominee to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the incoming Chair of the committee, highlighted and praised Buttigieg’s work as mayor and asked him about a number of priorities for the Pacific Northwest, including infrastructure investment, at-grade rail crossings, aviation safety and manufacturing, and the Jones Act.

“I am very excited that the President has nominated Mayor Pete Buttigieg,” said Senator Cantwell. “And I look forward to his vision in leading thDepartment of Transportation. As a mayor, I know you're no stranger to the challenges that a region faces on transportation infrastructure issues. I know that you earned national recognition for your “smart streets” project that created a safe environment for all road users, the project resulted in over $100 million in private sector investment. You used your experience as Mayor to help forge that and I hope that you will do that for communities across the United States of America.”

In her opening statement, Cantwell highlighted the importance of infrastructure investment to Washington’s export economy: “For us, in the state of Washington, we’re a big export state. Not only do we export our own products, so everything from cherries and wheat and apples and airplanes, but we also are a big pass through for many of the Midwest agricultural products reaching Asian destinations. So, to say that we need infrastructure investment is an understatement. The growth of the Pacific and the demand for U.S. products is a good problem to have, we just need to deal with the bottlenecks. And congestion in Puget Sound is at record levels. We need to address projects like the I-5 Columbia River Bridge replacement, the West Seattle Bridge replacement, the North-South Corridor in Spokane.”

Referring to the recent oil train derailment in Northwest Washington, she also asked Buttigieg about rail safety: “Would you say that the issue of at-grade crossings is also an issue that might need more attention? We just had a derailment in the Northwest, we have a lot of traffic moving through our communities and we hear constantly about safety issues. Do you think that at grade crossings need more attention?”

Highlighting her bipartisan aviation safety legislation signed into law at the end of 2020, Cantwell asked Buttigieg about his commitment to implementing safety reforms at the FAA and ensuring the United States takes a leadership role in global aviation safety. Buttigieg responded: “I'm committed to doing so. We need to make sure that engineers and the FAA are in the driver's seat when it comes to safety, and we'll be working right away to implement the legislation that you've advanced with regard to ensuring that we have every confidence in safety at the FAA.”

To achieve those goals at the FAA, Cantwell asked: “Are you willing to make changes in personnel if necessary?"

“Yes,” Buttigieg responded.

Cantwell also spoke about the importance of supporting transit agencies in Washington and around the country feeling the severe impact COVID has had on the transportation industry: “We need to make infrastructure investment all around the United States of America, including in public transportation. Projects like Sound Transit are facing a $1 billion shortfall as a result of COVID-19, which jeopardizes the much needed investment throughout Puget Sound.”

In closing her Q&A with Buttigieg, Cantwell noted her support for the Jones Act and the American maritime industry: “I am a big Jones Act supporter, and the State of Washington and the trade that we have related to the Jones Act to make sure that we have U.S. flagged vessels, sometimes it gets under attack but I just want to hear that you support the Jones Act.”

“Yes, I share your support for the Jones Act, it is so important to a maritime industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as the shipbuilding industry here in the U.S.,” Buttigieg responded.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE and audio is HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s Q&A with Buttigieg can be found HERE and audio is HERE.