Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg declared “there is racism physically built” into U.S. infrastructure during a Tuesday interview addressing President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Speaking to TheGrio, Buttigieg argued that some highways and bridges across several cities were designed to divide communities by race.
“Well if you’re in Washington, I’m told that the history of that highway is one that was built at the expense of communities of color in the D.C. area,” he said. “There are stories and I think Philadelphia and Pittsburgh [and] in New York, Robert Moses famously saw through the construction of a lot of highways.”
“There is racism physically built into some of our highways, and that’s why the jobs plan has specifically committed to reconnect some of the communities that were divided by these dollars,” he added.
Biden’s infrastructure plan would dedicate $20 billion to “reconnect neighborhoods” by investing in projects designed to “advance racial equity and environmental justice.”
In March, Buttigieg’s agency sent a letter to the state of Texas requesting it pause an interstate expansion in Houston as it investigates racial justice complaints.
Buttigieg, during his Senate confirmation hearings in January, pledged to combat what he described as racial injustice in infrastructure as transportation secretary.
“I also recognize that at their worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities in transportation can reinforce racial and economic inequality by dividing or isolating neighborhoods and undermining government’s basic role of empowering Americans to thrive,” Buttigieg said in his opening statement.
On Sunday, Buttigieg said in an interview that Biden would like Congress to act on his infrastructure plan by Memorial Day.
“We know that this is entering a legislative process where we’re going to be hearing from both sides of the aisle, and I think you’ll find the president’s got a very open mind. But time is of the essence,” he told ABC’s This Week. “So we’ll look at these ideas on how to pay for it. We’ll look at ideas on where the investments ought to be, too. But the president is hoping for major progress from Congress before Memorial Day. And we can’t allow this thing to just keep dragging on because the need is there today.”
However, several Senate Democrats, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) oppose the infrastructure proposal due to its proposed corporate tax rate hike to 28 percent.
“As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” Manchin told Metro News on Monday.
“It’s more than just me” the Democrat senator added. “There’s six or seven other Democrats who feel very strongly about this. We have to be competitive, and we’re not going to throw caution to the wind.”