HOUSTON - Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg came to Houston to see, firsthand, how tens of millions of federal dollars will be used to improve the region's transportation needs. The visit comes at the invitation of the city's congressional delegation, eager to show him what they say is needed to move the region forward to accommodate growth.
The centerpiece, for now, is federal funding for the continued modernization of Bush Intercontinental Airport. "That will match together to help us be the cornerstone of new innovation in the world," says Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
Added to ongoing renovations, the facility was awarded $40 million, over the summer, which will help expand Terminal A, which is largely unchanged since its construction in the 1970s.
The city's aviation department says some original equipment, that remains, can't even be turned off for maintenance, for fear it won't turn back on. "(The funding) is going to make it faster and easier to do all those things," says Secretary Buttigieg. "Check your bags, get through security, find your gates; it's going to reduce the carbon footprint of this airport, and it's going to drive jobs and economic growth in Houston for years to come." "This financial investment will help to usher in the next generation of airports; airports that are even safer and more sustainable," adds Houston mayor Sylvester Turner.
Houston METRO also talked to the secretary about realizing the agency's expansive METRO-next project.
The project will help accommodate a population that's expected to double in the next 20 to 30 years. "It's good for him to see what we're doing, so we can partner with our federal partners; so we can get things built; so people get to use them," says METRO chairman Sanjay Ramabhadran.
Advocates say the funding for roads, airports and public transportation is vital, and a significant step forward.
They also say it's just a down payment for what's to come.