LONG BEACH, Calif. — In his first official trip to California as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg visited the Port of Long Beach Tuesday to highlight recent progress in clearing the shipping backlog and to celebrate long-overdue investments in port infrastructure.
“Everything goes better when states and local leaders and the federal government are working together,” Buttigieg said during a marquee event attended by the mayors of LA and Long Beach, the executive directors of both cities’ ports, two LA County Supervisors, three U.S. Congress members and various state officials.
“We’re very proud of what was achieved here,” Buttigieg said, noting that the ports handled a record-breaking amount of cargo last year despite supply chain disruptions. Shipments were up 14% in 2021 compared with the previous record set in 2018.
Buttigieg first became involved with the issue last July, when he met with the directors of the Ports of LA and Long Beach to discuss supply chain issues and work on easing a cargo backlog that has dominated headlines for much of the past year.
“We’re going to continue to see challenges,” he acknowledged, noting that supply chains are owned and operated by a lot of different actors, many of them private sector. “But we have been partnering with everybody who has a hand in that in order to make sure we deliver results.
“We’re together right now, not just talking about but enacting the kinds of key problem-solving solutions,” Buttigieg added.
In October, the DOT entered into a strategic partnership with California Gov. Gavin Newsom “to fast track access to financing of over $5 billion for infrastructure projects that bear on our supply chains,” he said.
Last month, Buttigieg announced the DOT would award a $52 million grant to the Port of Long Beach to add a rail facility that will allow goods to be transported directly to warehouses in the inland empire without the use of polluting trucks.
As part of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Law President Biden signed last November, California expects to receive $29.5 billion over five years in federal highway funding for its 1,536 bridges and 14,220 miles of highway. The annual amount California will receive as a result of the law is 44% more than what it is currently receiving.
The Infrastructure Law also includes $17 billion for port infrastructure.
Buttigieg was visiting the Port of Long Beach one day after Governor Newsom unveiled his budget for the upcoming fiscal year, including $2.3 billion for investments in the ports and the supply chain system. About half is earmarked for port improvements. Much of the rest is for workforce training and zero-emission vehicles.
“The message we are sending through this budget is that we have skin in the game. That has never been said before,” California Transportation Secretary David Kim said during Tuesday’s event. “The state has not historically participated in the development of our ports’ goods movement and freight system. That is changing through this budget. It is historic.”