Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday that he hopes the United States will one day be a global leader in high-speed rail.
Speaking with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, Buttigieg said that the U.S. has been forced to “settle for less” when it comes to train transportation, especially compared to other nations like Japan or the United Kingdom.
“I just don’t know why people in other countries ought to have better train service or more investment in high speed train service than Americans do,” Buttigieg said. “Amtrak has done a heroic job with the constraints that had been placed on them. Now we’ve got to take things to the next level.”
Buttigieg said there is “bipartisan appetite” for investment in U.S. railway infrastructure, and stressed that President Joe Biden’s plan for public transportation — which includes $20 billion for transit companies suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic — would not come at the expanse of communities of color.
“Sometimes, investment [in U.S. transportation] came to Black neighborhoods all right, but it came in the worst possible way,” Buttigieg said, referencing the Florida community of Overtown — once equated with Harlem — that fragmented after the interstate highway system was built through it in the 1960s under Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration.
“We’ve got to make sure, first of all, that our policies recognize that history of harm, where this magnificent thing of creating the interstate highway system was so often done with terrible consequences for communities of color,” Buttigieg said. “Now, we’ve got a chance to get it right.”
Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has said that under his watch, the Transportation Department will embody “imaginative, bold, forward thinking” and turn into an “engine for equity.”
Biden — who famously commuted to Washington, D.C., on Amtrak during his many years as a senator — said on the campaign trail that his administration would spur “the second great railroad revolution” and rebuild America’s declining train infrastructure.
Watch Buttigieg’s remarks below.