CHARLOTTE — Vice President Kamala Harris was in Charlotte on Thursday, along with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, to highlight the new bipartisan infrastructure law and how it will upgrade infrastructure and union jobs in North Carolina.
During her visit, Harris laid out the critical need for infrastructure upgrades in Charlotte and across the country.
North Carolina is set to receive nearly $9 billion from the infrastructure package. That money will go toward things like improving public transportation, fixing roads and replacing bridges.
To put that into perspective, there are three bridges over Interstate 277 in uptown that are considered “structurally deficient.”
Harris also checked out the city’s transportation system, which stands to get a big boost under the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure law.
Harris was joined by Buttigieg and Rep. Alma Adams, as well as Gov. Roy Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. She assured state residents that the new infrastructure package will speed up long-neglected public works projects and create good-paying union jobs in the state.
(Watch the video below for Harris’ visit to Charlotte)
She also toured the public transit facility at the Charlotte Area Transit System’s Bus Garage and met with transit workers. There, she saw how Charlotte has emphasized making public transit more accessible for people who use wheelchairs, and how the city has used CARES act funds to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in public transportation.
The focus was on public transportation, education, jobs, and economic mobility. Both Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said getting people to work on busses and trains can help them get out of poverty.
“The Build Back Better Act will continue our work in Charlotte,” said Lyles.
Adams stressed how the law will allow not just for physical mobility, but also social and economic mobility as well.
”The funding in this law will keep Charlotte and Mecklenburg moving,” Adams said.
Cooper commended many attributes of the law, including broadband internet and measures to reduce carbon emissions by creating clean energy jobs.
Buttigieg highlighted Charlotte’s history, recalling the city’s original 12-passenger, horse-drawn streetcar that changed the housing and economic make-up of the city more than 100 years ago. He emphasized that the infrastructure bill will make the biggest investment in public transportation infrastructure in the country’s history.
”Today, we begin another new chapter in thinking about our transportation history: making it cleaner, safer and stronger,” Buttigieg said.
Harris commended the work of North Carolina legislators, including Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, for helping get the law passed. She stressed the importance of public transportation in the lives of Americans.
(VIDEO BELOW: Interview with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg)
”A bus stop within walking distance can make all the difference,” Harris said. “Missing a bus by just one minute can mean being an hour late for work.”
She added that the need for repairs is imminent and urgent, and will be possible with the investment from the law. Harris said there are more than 3,000 miles of highway in North Carolina that need to be repaired, laughing at nods in the crowd when she used I-85 as an example.
Though it’s unclear how much federal infrastructure spending will be allocated to North Carolina, the state could see as much $457 million for bridge replacement and repairs over a five-year period. To improve public transportation, North Carolina will receive $910 million over five years, Harris said.
At least $100 million could be on the way to expand broadband coverage across the state.
”Long gone is Encyclopedia Britannica,” Harris joked, stressing that children need access to the internet to succeed in school, particularly during the pandemic.
For improving water infrastructure and eliminating lead service lines and pipes, the state could get more than $1 billion over five years.
North Carolina will also get a portion of the $7.5 billion that will be used to build out a national network of electric vehicle chargers.
Harris also discussed the Build Back Better Act, which the House passed before the Thanksgiving holiday.
”As we move forward, let us believe in our people and invest in our people,” the Vice President said.
Carolina Democrats were praising the visit from the Vice President and the attention from the White House.
“This is a critical moment for transportation and mobility in our growing region,” said Adams. “That’s the reason Vice President Harris and Secretary Buttigieg are visiting tomorrow: mobility. Not only in terms of roads, bridges, buses, and rail; but also in terms of social and economic mobility. A strong network of roads, rail, and pedestrian options can help move people not only to jobs, church, school, and the doctor but also into new opportunities and eventually the middle class.”
Not everyone is on board, though. The Republican National Committee called the visit a ”tax-payer funded PR tour.”
In a statement, the RNC said, “Gaslighting North Carolinians and squandering their hard-earned tax dollars through the Build Back Broke lie that will worsen inflation, raise taxes and add hundreds of billions to our national debt is disrespectful and unproductive for the American people. Instead of trying to score political points on a taxpayer-funded PR tour, Kamala Harris should get back to Washington and work on solving the multiple crises facing our country.“
Thursday’s visit was closed to the public.
WTVD contributed to this report.
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