In an exclusive interview with News4Jax, new Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg weighed in on a number of topics, including the changes planned for the Skyway in Downtown Jacksonville.
Morning Show anchor Bruce Hamilton talked with Buttigieg and asked him specifically about federal grants that JTA wants to use to turn the Skyway into a self-driving autonomous car circuit that will serve the downtown and surrounding areas.
“I am not sure about that individual grant. I will make sure to check on it now that you raised it. But what I will say is there are a lot of evolving technologies that we have to prepare for. The way that people get around 20, 15, even 10 years from now is not going to look the exact same as a good 20 or 30 years ago,” Buttigieg said. “That includes technology for autonomous driving and new forms of transit, so we make it easier for people to get to where they are going. And one of the most important things this department can do is partner with local leaders who are doing good work.”
According to a fact sheet from the White House, Florida was graded a C for its Infrastructure Report Card. The White House said the state has suffered from decades of systemic lack of investment and the need for action is clear.
Among the issues identified in Florida are 408 bridges and over 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition and 16% of trains and other transit vehicles in the Sunshine State being past their useful life.
“The president believes and I do to that Americans ought to be able to expect the highest standard of train travel. That means really investing in it. That’s why the president’s vision includes $80 billion for rail,” Buttigieg said. “We need to have the best passenger rail in the U.S. There’s a wonderful tradition of it, but the truth is the U.S. hasn’t kept up with other countries. So whether we’re talking about rail services themselves or ideas about making sure that we have the best possible stations, all of that is part of the vision that we’re advancing. It’s one of many reasons we’re seeing, I think, such energy and enthusiasm around the American Jobs Plan.”
Another issue in Florida is that 6% of Floridians live in areas where, by one definition, there is no broadband infrastructure with minimally acceptable speeds. A News4Jax investigative report found that in some communities, emergency response service and response times suffered as a result of these disparities.
Buttigieg acknowledged that’s simply not acceptable.
“As we go into the 2020s, having good broadband access is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. I know that this isn’t one of the more traditional parts of the infrastructure vision we’re putting forward, but we think it’s one of the most important because right now having a good internet connection is just as important as having a good connection to the interstate highway system,” Buttigieg said. “You need both in order for a community or, for that matter a family, to prosper. As you mentioned, it is a safety issue. It’s certainly an economic issue. It’s a fairness and equity issue for everything from doing your homework to participating in today’s economy.”
Buttigieg also highlighted why the Biden administration is calling the infrastructure plan the “American Jobs Plan.”
“Independent analyses suggest we will create millions of jobs and importantly they are jobs all across the economic spectrum from advanced engineering jobs to the kind of construction jobs we really need in order to be able to maintain these assets,” Buttigieg said. “Most of the jobs are available whether you have a college degree or not.”
For more on the specific issues the White House identified in Florida, click here. For more from Bruce’s interview with Buttigieg, watch the video above.