ICYMI: As Part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Investing in America” Tour, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Highlights Significant Safety and Infrastructure Improvements Coming to the Southwest
In New Mexico, Secretary Buttigieg announced nearly $200 million to repair gas pipelines across the country, as well as new funding to help communities prevent deadly wildlife-vehicle collisions — a serious issue for many states across the West that costs Americans billions each year
Albuquerque, NM — This week, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s “Investing in America” tour, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Deming, New Mexico, as well as El Paso, Texas. During his visit, the Secretary highlighted major investments from President Biden’s infrastructure package to reduce roadway fatalities and improve infrastructure across the region, including in rural and underserved communities.
Just outside of Albuquerque in the Santa Ana Pueblo, the Secretary joined U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, New Mexico Governor Michele Lujan Grisham, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury, Santa Ana Pueblo Governor Nathan Garcia, and other state and local leaders, to announce a first-of-its-kind program to construct new wildlife crossings along the nation’s roadways that will prevent wildlife-vehicle crashes and reduce fatalities on our roadways. Around 1 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur annually — costing the U.S. over $8 billion and resulting in tens of thousands of serious injuries and hundreds of fatalities.
The Secretary also joined first responders, local transportation officials, and community members at a local fire station to discuss how to make New Mexico’s roads safer, especially for pedestrians. As part of that effort, the U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded Bernalillo County $6.3 million from the new Safe Streets and Roads for All program for improvements along an especially dangerous and deadly stretch of Albuquerque’s Coors Boulevard.
In the rural community of Deming, Secretary Buttigieg joined members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Chair Nanette Barragán, U.S. Representative Gabe Vasquez, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján, and other local leaders to highlight how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is investing in communities that have been previously left behind.
And in the City of Las Cruces, Secretary Buttigieg announced funding for 37 projects in 19 states through the Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization grant program — established by President Biden’s infrastructure law — to repair and modernize gas pipelines to keep residents safe from gas leaks and reduce methane emissions while creating jobs. Las Cruces, specifically, received $10 million through the program.
For his last stop in New Mexico, Secretary Buttigieg met with students at New Mexico State University for a conversation with NMSU Chancellor Arvizu and others about the future of jobs and infrastructure in the state.
To cap off his visit to the Southwest, Secretary Buttigieg stopped by the El Paso International Airport alongside U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, where they toured FAA’s Air Traffic Control Tower, which is over 60 years old and is being replaced in part thanks to a $5 million grant from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. While at the airport, Secretary Buttigieg also met with air traffic controllers and hosted a roundtable with local leaders and advocates about the future of transportation in El Paso, TX.
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“You see these unique issues like wildlife crossings, like fire risk, the unique issues that tribal communities are experiencing, they require a policy that sets a national tone and brings in national funding but engages local leaders and state leaders and tribal leaders on what makes sense for them. And New Mexico, I think, is very distinctive in reminding us of that.”
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“The problems that we’re talking about here in our infrastructure are problems that no community can solve alone,” [Secretary Buttigieg] said. “They are national problems expressed in local concern. It’s part of a bigger pattern of under-investment from Washington that has built up over decades, that has helped to explain why rural communities have had to fight so hard to live well and had to fight so hard to hold onto their young people.”
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“I think it’s important that our voices are heard, especially in smaller communities, there’s a lot of struggles we deal with that aren’t seen in urban communities,” said Jonah Madrid, an NMSU student panelist.
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“What we’re seeing is wildlife moving into new areas,” [U.S. Congresswoman Melanie Stansbury] said, “and so projects like this will help wildlife reconnect on the land to historic spaces and the spaces that will sustain them ecologically as they’re facing climate change.”
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“The federal government is now delivering these generational investments that will help rebuild our economy, that will help create jobs, that will have an impact right here in rural New Mexico,” [U.S. Congressman Gabe Vasquez] said.
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