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Buttigieg to Testify in Confirmation Hearing for Transportation Dept.

  • January 21, 2021

As presidential candidate, Mr. Buttigieg released a $1 trillion infrastructure plan that aimed to create six million jobs, stem the effects of climate change and bolster investment in transit, passenger rail and electric vehicles while trying to cut the nation’s backlog of road repairs by half in 10 years.

As Mr. Biden’s nominee, Mr. Buttigieg has indicated that climate change will be a focus for the department, by promoting electric vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said he would look to reverse decades-long transportation policies that have led to limiting low-income individuals and minority residents access to transportation.

Mr. Buttigieg would not step into the role with extensive experience enacting federal transportation policy. Mr. Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of transportation, Polly Trottenberg, led New York City’s transportation department for seven years.

During Mr. Buttigieg’s time as mayor, his signature transit achievement was a $25 million project, called Smart Streets, that converted South Bend’s one-way roads into two-way streets with bike lanes and sidewalks to encourage foot traffic and downtown commercial activity.

Jeff Rea, the president of South Bend’s regional chamber of commerce, said he was initially skeptical when Mr. Buttigieg put forward the plan, but said $180 million to $200 million in investment in the downtown area followed, and he praised the mayor for his “data-driven” approach to transportation overhaul.

But Jorden Giger, a founder of the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said Mr. Buttigieg’s downtown revitalization plan, along with a program to demolish or repair 1,000 of the city’s houses, had accelerated gentrification and contributed to reduced rates of minority homeownership.

Black leaders in South Bend have also criticized Mr. Buttigieg’s frosty relations with the community, and said they were worried his lackluster record on supporting minority businesses and appointing people of color to staff positions would continue.

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