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Biden nominates Pete Buttigieg as DOT secretary

New Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is now a powerful figure in the freight community. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, who dropped out of 2020 presidential campaign earlier this year and endorsed Biden, as secretary of transportation.

“I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us,” Biden said on Tuesday. “Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better. I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision — he will bring people together to get big things done.”

While running for president, Buttigieg, 38, pledged a $165 billion injection into the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) to keep it solvent through 2029 if he were elected. The pledge was part of the Democratic presidential candidate’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which he rolled out in January.

Buttigieg’s infrastructure plan called for potentially replacing fuel taxes — the HTF’s primary funding source — with a user fee-based system such as a vehicle-miles-traveled fee “with appropriate privacy protections that is already being piloted by states,” according to the plan. “Within such a system, discounted rates can be offered on a sliding scale based on income.”

Buttigieg also wanted to create a $50 billion grant program to be used to repair half of the estimated 47,000 bridges that are structurally deficient by 2030, with funding prioritized for the country’s most unsafe bridges.

Buttigieg believes investing in electric vehicles (EVs) “is a tool both to combat climate change and to drive manufacturing job growth.” His plan would have provided $6 billion in grants and loans through his Clean Energy Bank for states and cities to partner with private companies and unions on installing publicly available EV charging infrastructure.

“Having served as a mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had an up close and personal look at how our infrastructure problems are impacting Americans, and how important it is to solve them,” commented American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. “We look forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with him to begin the important work of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.”

“Carrying out an agenda like Joe Biden’s that’s focused on climate change will have major implications” for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), commented Randy Mullett, executive director for The Americans for Modern Transportation (AMT), on news of Buttigieg’s nomination. AMT represents major parcel and less-than-truckload carriers in pushing for increasing truck size limits.

“The next DOT chief is going to likely going to address autonomous vehicle technology in a way that goes from just hypothetical to real. And if we’re going to go to carbon neutral transportation, grants will likely move from supporting traditional infrastructure to things like charging stations.”

Mullett also cited Buttigieg’s previous work as a consultant for McKinsey. “If he can bring any of that analysis and data experience to DOT, that would be wonderful,” Mullett said.

According to a 2019 CNN report, one of the projects he worked on involved combating climate change. It was co-sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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  1. Mark Cardnial

    When Pete was in the Navy Reserves, he had extensive logistics experience. He was the driver for the company commander (my source is wikipedia)

    While Mayer in South Bend, he personally inspected at least 6 pot holes repairs.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.