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'Music to my ears': Buttigieg praises Charlotte's 2040 mobility plan

Transportation chief Pete Buttigieg promises cooperation with city on mobility plan and touts considerable aid in the President's American Rescue plan.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — United States Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is only a few weeks into his new position but he's already looking to form partnerships with growing cities like Charlotte, as President Biden plans to unveil a $3 trillion infrastructure package next week.

"We want to partner with communities like Charlotte," Buttigieg said, in an interview with WCNC Charlotte's Ben Thompson. "Charlotte is recognized for a lot of innovative thinking."

The transportation chief says Charlotte is a model for other cities looking to the next generation of urban mobility.  

"It's music to my ears when you talk about a multi-modal approach. In other words, talking about yes, roads, but also thinking about bicycle transportation, light rail or other forms of public transit," Buttigieg said. "We need to make sure residents have as many options as possible."

Buttigieg said his department is looking to streamline the grant process for cities to apply for federal money. Currently, Charlotte city leaders are mulling a 2040 mobility plan which includes miles of rail lines, bike lanes, greenways and more. The plan is funded, in part, by billions in federal dollars. But still needs approval by city council.

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The Secretary credits a former Charlotte mayor for changing how cities and the federal government approach transportation issues equitably. In many cities, the interstate system divided historically black communities, permanently dividing otherwise thriving neighborhoods.

"My predecessor who's from Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, was eloquent and effective in raising the profile of equity considerations here at the department," Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg is also touting President Biden's recently passed American Rescue Plan. He estimates nearly 90% of North Carolinians received a stimulus check.

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"It's gonna lift more than 100,000 children out of poverty in North Carolina alone," he said.

From the whopping $1.9 trillion plan, $5.6 billion goes to North Carolina's state government, $3.6 billion goes to North Carolina municipalities, and $3.69 billion goes to state schools, according to White House estimates.   

Buttigieg said it's incumbent upon the Biden administration to get the money to people as quickly as possible, as responsibly as possible.

"On one hand, we've got to make sure these resources are deployed quickly," Buttigieg explained. "On the other hand, not so quickly we're not sure where they're spent."