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USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg tours Port of Baltimore, touts Biden's infrastructure plan

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured the Port of Baltimore July 29 along with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Brandon Scott as the Biden Administration continues to whip support for the infrastructure plan. (WBFF/Mikenzie Frost){ }{p}{/p}
US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured the Port of Baltimore July 29 along with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Brandon Scott as the Biden Administration continues to whip support for the infrastructure plan. (WBFF/Mikenzie Frost)

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DUNDALK, Md. (WBFF) – The storms held off long enough Thursday for a dry tour of the Port of Baltimore by federal, state and local leaders to see the room for growth and how President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure package could impact ports and other communities.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg got an up-close-and-personal tour of two of the six terminals at the Port of Baltimore during a traditional humid and hot summer afternoon in Baltimore.

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Buttigieg was joined by Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Brandon Scott for the event, which was billed as a chance to tout the infrastructure plans and explain to locals how the investments proposed in the yet-to-be completed bill could boost not just the physical infrastructure, but the surrounding economy.

Bill Doyle, executive director of the Port of Baltimore, provided the tour of the leaders. In Doyle’s thick Boston-style accent, he explained to Secretary Buttigieg the importance of the port to the rest of the country and world, especially within the auto and farm equipment industry.

Doyle said during the pandemic when the auto industry was shuttered, cars lined the docks with nowhere to go because there was such a surplus of vehicles. When the sales kicked up again, Doyle said it was a quick turnaround to get the vehicles onto ships.

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As for the infrastructure plan itself, $17 billion are included in the material for ports across the country. Secretary Buttigieg said more funding can help with a lot of projects, like dredging to allow larger vessels to come into ports.

"The more that those vessels could be accommodated through this port" the smoother the process would be to get the goods out to other parts of the country, Buttigieg said.

He also tried to draw a distinction between the infusion of infrastructure dollars now compared to 2009 when another investment was made. Buttigieg said 2009 was more about “shovel-ready projects” that could be done immediately, while the current plan from the Biden Administration is “also about shovel-worthy projects.”

"This is also about teeing up the kind of things that will define certainly things in 2030s and beyond,” Secretary Buttigieg said.

The plan has yet to be finalized in Congress and it just cleared the first hurdle July 28 when a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators voted to open the door for negotiations and conversation surrounding the details.

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen both spoke at the event held in the shadow of a massive cargo ship. Sen. Cardin said during the pandemic, the Port of Baltimore did not shutter thanks to work in Congress and the next infusion of financial support could cement the port’s prominent position on the global stage.

"We think we are prepared to meet the challenges of the future. We have the best location. We have the modernized facilities and we have the best workforce of any port in America,” Cardin said.

Gov. Hogan said the plan from the Biden Administration includes money that could make the Port of Baltimore “one of the greatest beneficiaries of the federal infrastructure package.” The GOP governor said infrastructure is an issue that should ignore party lines to come together and improve the system for years to come.

"I want to thank our federal partners for their hard work. we are finally reaching an agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure package that will make generational investments,” Hogan said.

Generational investment is something that Hogan and Mayor Scott, a Democrat, did agree on during the tour. Scott said he recognizes Secretary Buttigieg is focused on equity within the infrastructure proposal.

"We know what this bill is about. this bill is about making sure that our communities are prepared for tomorrow, today,” Scott said. "Our city, our state, is ready.”

The tour wrapped and Buttigieg said an important piece to remember about the infrastructure plan is the number of jobs that could be kept, or crated, stemming from the investment. The Port of Baltimore created 15,000 direct jobs and nearly 1400,000 non-direct jobs. Secretary Buttigieg said the Port of Baltimore in particular – which was his first port to visit in his cabinet position – is an important piece in national economy.

"Nothing happens in isolation. What goes on in this port impacts people 1,000 miles or more from any coast,” he said.

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