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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talks with Scripps News about new infrastructure and nationwide mobility

Secretary Buttigieg, who has been touring infrastructure projects across western Montana this week, talked about airline regulation, EV charging, and the administration's newest transport investment.
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On Tuesday Scripps News spoke with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has been touring infrastructure projects across western Montana this week.

He discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's new regulation of Boeing over its safety benchmarks, electric vehicle and high-speed rail infrastructure and the Biden administration's wide-ranging transport investment across the nation.

Holding Boeing to safety standards

"The FAA is conducting an investigation because we're continuing to put Boeing under a microscope," Sec. Buttigieg said. "The FAA sets a standard, and then the manufacturer's responsible for meeting that standard. Any time we get an indication that that's not happening, there's going to be an intensive next step. And that's why the FAA is taking the unprecedented step of restricting how many planes Boeing can make until they can demonstrate that they can increase that safely."

"The fact that aviation is by far — by far — the safest way to travel in the U.S. doesn't just happen. That happens because of this constant updating, refreshing and returning to what needs to be looked at any time there's an indication of a problem," he said.

Electric vehicle charging

"The good news for rural America is that most EV owners will wind up charging at home because in rural America, a majority of people have single-family homes and you can always charge at the plug in your wall," Sec. Buttigieg said. "But if you're driving out those longer distances, you've got to know there's going to be a charger the same way when you go out on a road trip, you've got to know that there's going to be gas station there — especially some of the distance is the people in areas like Montana cover."

"That's why we're investing so much in increasing the availability of EV chargers," he said. "We've got about $7.5 billion going into making sure that by the end of this decade, there is a network of about half a million chargers across America. We're well over 100,000, mostly built by the private sector. But there are areas where it's just not profitable, at least not yet, for the companies to put them in. That's where we are working with the states to make sure that whether we're talking about apartment buildings in cities or whether we're talking about those long stretches of road, that you know that there's going to be a charger when you need it."

A train sits on the tracks.

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A new focus on high-speed rail

"Rail opened up the West. It's what made places like Montana and the whole American West really open up in the first place," Sec. Buttigieg said. "So it makes sense for us to have excellent passenger rail for the future. The problem is we haven't really invested in that in the last half-century. We're seeing more and more visions, more and more projects. There's the Big Sky Network right here trying to bring it to Montana. We're providing some planning dollars to help them get some of their plans on to the drawing board. It's early days for some of those visions. But there has been good passenger-service here before. There's no reason we can't have that in the future."

"Meanwhile, other projects that are further along, like the Nevada one, are so exciting. That's high-speed rail from Nevada to Southern California. They're planning to be up and running by 2028. And it's going to create a lot of good paying jobs along the way," Sec. Buttigieg said.