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Buttigieg touts infrastructure law in visit to Indiana port city on Ohio River

TELL CITY, Ind. (WISH) — Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday said infrastructure funding is as much an economic issue as a safety issue.

The Indiana native’s comments came during his first visit to his home state in an official capacity since being confirmed to lead the Department of Transportation early last year.

Buttigieg was promoting the infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed in November, which White House officials say will provide nearly $7 billion to Indiana for roads and bridges alone.

The secretary highlighted a $1.6 million federal grant to Tell City’s port authority for a new pier.

The town’s current pier along the Ohio River uses a floating crane to transfer pig iron from barges to trucks.

Port workers say that, as a result, they have to limit or even suspend operations if river levels are too high or too low. The grant will cover a land-based crane that city officials say can operate in almost any conditions.

Buttigieg says rural infrastructure projects are especially important because people in those areas don’t have as many alternatives, such as different routes or transportation options, as those who live in urban areas enjoy.

He adds that young people who grow up surrounded by decaying infrastructure get the message that the only way to get ahead in life is to leave town, and find employment elsewhere.

The secretary says investing in Tell City’s pier will ensure the port will be able to continue supporting jobs both in Perry County and at the Waupaca Foundry in Wisconsin.

“They’re not just turning that pig iron into automotive parts. They’re turning it into prosperity. They’re turning it into middle-class incomes. They’re turning it into sponsorships for Little League and membership dues for the VFW,” Buttigieg said. “Now I know the conversation on the news is often in the trillions and in the billions, but one community at a time, we see how much 1 or 2 million dollars can do.”

Buttigieg says infrastructure projects can serve as a unifying force in a politically divided time.

When asked about the votes against the bill by all of Indiana’s GOP members of Congress, Buttigieg said he won’t hold those “no” votes against communities when it comes time to approve or deny projects.

News 8 asked Buttigieg how the DOT will ensure funding goes where it’s intended. He replied his office reviews all discretionary grant applications, while INDOT is responsible for overseeing any projects funded through federal dollars that wind up in the state’s budget.

In a statement regarding Buttigieg’s visit, RNC spokesperson, Preya Samsundar, said, “Pete Buttigieg abandoned Hoosier values in favor Joe Biden’s agenda. No photo-op in his home state will make Hoosiers forget the role Buttigieg played in creating the supply chain crisis and skyrocketing inflation.”