Buttigieg: transportation investments in rural America are long overdue  

Nearly $274 million has been earmarked for a new program aimed at improving and expanding transportation infrastructure in rural areas.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says this investment in the nation’s rural communities is long overdue.

“The projects include all kinds of different improvements but what they all have in common is they’re going to make it safer, more affordable, and easier for people in rural communities to get around,” he says. “We don’t want rural communities, as they sometimes have in the past, left out of these great federal investments.”

The Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program, made possible through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help fund 12 projects to improve roads and bridges, develop on-demand transit services, and more.

One of the projects involves eliminating at-grade railroad crossings in Moorhead, Minnesota.

“(The community) has been trying for nine years to make a set of improvements including eliminating two of these at-grade crossings with underpasses on 11th street in their downtown. They just haven’t had the funding to do it,” he says. “Their application was successful and we’re supporting them with $26.3 million to help get this done.”

Buttigieg tells Brownfield the administration is focused on ensuring that rural America thrives.  

“Whether you’re directly involved in agriculture and you spend a lot of time on the road moving goods or you count on the people who do, or maybe you’re not in ag but you’re in a community that has felt left out of some of these federal programs. We’re working to make sure our department is user-friendly for communities of all sizes and to make sure that the dollars are getting out there too because often it’s actually in rural areas that the dollar can go further. If you fix a rural bridge, maybe it’s not the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s everything to that county and it’s a real problem if it’s out of service or there is a load limit, and you have to go 20 minutes out of your way to get to another one. We’ve been hearing so much from communities about their needs and now after frankly a lot of talk for years and years in Washington about doing infrastructure, we’re actually getting it done.”

The administration says that about 13 percent of rural roads and 10 percent of off-system bridges are in poor condition. The fatality rate is two times greater on rural roads than urban roads. The U.S. Department of Transportation is helping rebuild rural transportation systems.

“We’re very focused on making it happen. We’re working with the states, cities, counties, with everyone who is getting funding to help tear down the obstacles they’ve faced and help them get things done,” he says. “At the department our top focus is safety. We’re also looking at things that improve economic strength and fairness and equity, including regional equity like making sure rural areas don’t get left out. We’re focused on solutions that are going to help cut pollution and help the climate. All of these things are happening with the good transportation work going on. I have a great team at the U.S. DOT and we’re working hard on this every day.”  

Buttigieg says information for a second round of Rural Surface Transportation Grant applications will be released this spring.  

“Listeners should be in touch with local leaders and see if your community is applying for any of these grants especially if there is something you’d be excited to see happen,” he says. “These are still very competitive. We get way more applications than we can say yes too, but we can say yes way more often than we ever could in the past because of this Bipartisan Infrastructure package.”

The Rural program will invest a total of about $2 billion through 2026.

Audio: Pete Buttigieg

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