RANDOLPH – The crowning achievement so far of the Biden Administration has been the passage and signing of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
The bill, which passed with some Republican support, will bring about $14 billion to New Jersey for roads, bridges, public transit, airport improvements and to improve Internet service in rural areas.
And this week, it brought Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Transportation Secretary, to New Jersey for meetings with local members of Congress and to hype the bill.
Buttigieg, who earned the informal moniker of “Mayor Pete” when he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, spent Thursday morning at Port Newark along with Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Donald Payne.
There, he took a ride in a truck over a section of road to be improved with money from the bill, which most significantly, will also fund a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
Thursday afternoon brought Buttigieg, who had been the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, to County College of Morris in Randolph.
Here, he and Rep. Mikie Sherrill toured the college’s Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering Center.
Among other attractions, the officials encountered robots doing routine chores and a room filled with computerized lathes and millers that make components used by, among others, NASA.
The infrastructure bill, as mentioned, was a legitimate accomplishment. After all, fixing the nation’s roads and bridges has been talked about for years, but neither the Obama nor Trump administrations were able to get a major bill passed.
Nonetheless, in political terms, is the bill’s value being lost, or perhaps ignored because of concerns over inflation?
Buttigieg, who called the measure a “generational investment,” acknowledged that he doesn’t expect everyone to be as excited about roads and bridges as he is.
But he contended that moving goods faster by fixing the nation’s infrastructure can help unlock the supply chain and lessen inflation.
Later, the secretary and congresswoman discussed the bill and related issues with CCM officials, students and business and labor leaders.
One topic arising immediately was workforce issues.
There was agreement that college programs that stress mechanics and engineering can help fill a need.
But there’s also child care, or lack thereof. Sherrill said lack of child care can be an obstacle for women looking to resume their careers.
Notwithstanding the polarization today in Washington, both officials were optimistic.
Sherrill said she actually sees less opposition now to expanding child care than she did a few years ago.
Buttigieg was bullish about transportation, suggesting that this decade will be as transformative as the 1920’s in regard to finding ways to move people around.
There are, of course, some regulatory hurdles to jump.
“Mayor Pete” said that regulations call for all new cars – even self-driving vehicles – to have rear view mirrors.