Pete Buttigieg's Senate confirmation hearing focused heavily on infrastructure. - Photo: U.S. DOT

Pete Buttigieg's Senate confirmation hearing focused heavily on infrastructure.

Photo: U.S. DOT

The Senate on Feb. 2 approved Pete Buttigieg as the nation’s 19th U.S. transportation secretary.

Buttigieg will oversee the transportation department’s 55,000 employees, including agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Highway Administration. He's largely expected to work with Congress to push the Biden administration's infrastructure priorities and on the reauthorization of surface transportation law. During his confirmation hearing, his remarks focused on safety and infrastructure.

He is expected to promote President Joe Biden’s green initiatives, which include a stronger fuel economy standard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and a $2 trillion climate and infrastructure plan that includes rebuilding roads and bridges and boosting electric vehicle infrastructure, the AP reported.

Various organizations issued statements welcoming Buttigieg's confirmation and urging him to address their particular concerns.

The National Association of Truck Stop Operators’ President and CEO Lisa Mullings said in a statement that her organization is looking forward to working with Buttigieg on a broad spectrum of issues, including the need for long-term highway funding and policies that encourage private-sector investment in alternative fueling infrastructure, such as electric vehicle charging.

NATSO has a nationwide network of truckstops, travel plaza and off-highway fuel retailers which support the new administration’s focus on quickly and efficiently bringing alternative fuels to market, Mullings said.

“We encourage [Buttigieg] to focus on solutions that solve our infrastructure investment challenges without harming the interstate-exit based businesses that help to support the nation’s economy and their local communities by providing jobs and crucial tax revenues,” Mullings said. “Maintaining existing policies that prohibit commercialization of interstate rest areas and the longstanding ban on tolling existing interstate highways are key to that effort.”

Buttigieg's confirmation drew congratulations from other transportation leaders and organizations, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

AASHTO earlier this year released a list of 2021 policy priorities to guide its efforts in support of transportation infrastructure strategies and investments. Top priorities include securing additional COVID-19 relief aid as part of a larger infrastructure investment package that would help spur economic recovery for the nation, and support for the timely reauthorization of a long-term surface transportation-funding bill to prevent unnecessary program disruptions and delays in safety and mobility benefits to states and communities. 

“AASHTO believes the work being done in transportation should endeavor to improve quality of life for all Americans. State DOTs look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg to make that happen by improving safety; building a more resilient transportation system; and, supporting modally diverse options for people and their communities,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO executive director, in a press release.

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-Mo.) also released a statement saying he looks forward to working with the secretary on policies with strong bipartisan support.

“Secretary Buttigieg already signaled he agrees that America’s rural infrastructure needs are important and must be addressed,” Graves said. “I also agree with his conclusion that increasing or indexing the federal gas tax is not a long-term solution, especially given the new administration’s and House Democrats’ goal of virtually eliminating gas-powered vehicles. Clearly, we need to find a fairer and more sustainable method of supporting the Highway Trust Fund, and I look forward to working with Secretary Buttigieg to explore a viable replacement for the federal gas tax, such as a Vehicle Miles Traveled system.”

In addition, under Buttigieg's watch, DOT agencies may revisit some of the de-regulatory actions taken during the Trump administration, such as more flexible hours of service rules.

Buttigieg, 39, is a former Democratic presidential hopeful and the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Upon his confirmation, Buttigieg became the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a Cabinet post.

Originally posted on Trucking Info

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