U.S. Secretary of Transportation tours Port of Port Arthur; touts $13 million grant and its local impacts

Published 6:29 pm Thursday, February 9, 2023

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Thursday toured and spoke at the Port of Port Arthur regarding President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and a $13 million grant awarded to the port.

“So many of the goods and the materials that people rely on every day, even if they don’t live anywhere near here, come through these ports,” Buttigieg said. “It’s actually one of the smaller ports of its kind but punching far above its weight and handling more cargo than ever, which is why this project is so important. And as leaders here have explained, it’s been years in the making — too many years. But it’s finally here.”

Prior to a gathering at the port that included city, county and state leaders, Buttigieg toured the area near and at the port as CEO and Director Larry Kelley explained plans to expand through neighboring properties, which will be done using grant monies.

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The Rebuilding American Infrastructure and Sustainability Equity (RAISE) Grant will, in part, go towards transforming approximately 30 acres of land.

“Another facet of this project: we’ll take down a couple dilapidated buildings in this area and we’ll turn them into uses suitable for this port,” he said. “And the other one and probably closest to my heart, there’s a building on Houston Avenue… For several reasons — one, a resiliency for the realignment of the pending levee wall and also because the port is growing, we have a building that we’re going to restore and it’ll become part of the port offices and the bottom floor will be for community meeting space.”

Buttigieg was introduced to the crowd by Mayor Thurman Bartie.

“To the honorable secretary of transportation: I want to use a term of endearment that I heard used three weeks ago in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C. by the president of these United States of America when he made the reference to the secretary as Mayor Pete,” Bartie said. “Starting down at the bottom doesn’t mean you won’t get to the top. This is an indication of your dedication and hard work. So we don’t take it lightly to refer to him as Mayor Pete.”

Bartie said the near $14 million grant for Port Arthur enhances abilities and possibilities for the residents of the city and the region.

“Now I want you to hear this well, Mayor Pete, staff, I want you to hear this well: The City of Port Arthur still has needs. The Port of Port Arthur still has needs. And last I checked, your department still has funds,” he said, which was met with laughter from the crowd.

“As we move further in America with the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law and the possibilities of working together across the aisles, I want each of you to know — and Mayor Pete, we really want you to know — that Port Arthur, Texas stands ready to achieve the promise with the RAISE Grant funded for 2023.”

Buttigieg, who was sworn into his current position in February 2021, previously served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

“It wasn’t that long ago I was the mayor of a city that wasn’t the country’s biggest, knocking on the door of the U.S. Department of Transportation trying to get results from my community,” he said. “I just so admire the work of mayors today. The job has only become more demanding and more difficult since I wore the title, and I will always probably answer to the name of Mayor Pete.”

Buttigieg said the department received “$13 billion in applications for $2 billion worth of funding. So you should know that the team here that put together this application was in that rare group that made the cut and got all the way to the top of the list has a great deal to be proud of.

“When we look through these applications, one of the best things about it is you can sense not just the dollars and cents that are at stake, but the hope that is written into these applications. The pride that people take in the future of their community. And I felt that pride on the tour that we got and throughout this visit.”