Buttigieg visits aviation sites as part of three-day itinerary in Alaska

Part of the schedule Tuesday included stops at hubs in Anchorage
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 11:02 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is in the midst of a multi-day trip through Alaska, with his stop Tuesday taking him through Alaska’s largest city.

“No matter how much you look at it on a map or on paper, nothing can fully drive home the dimensions of this state, the sheer proportions of it,” Buttigieg said, adding that a main purpose behind the trip was to see part of the $68.7 million investment from President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law being put into action. “The fact that, for example, from Anchorage to Kotzebue is almost a two-hour flight and not even a fraction of the distance of the state, it helps give you a sense of why transportation infrastructure is so needed and so important.”

While the first part of his day focused on the Port of Alaska – and how to help with the aging infrastructure and ongoing port modernization project there – much of Buttigieg’s afternoon and evening were dedicated to aviation and its importance across the state.

That meant a tour of multiple facilities, including the Guardian Flight Alaska hangar and Alaska Air Cargo facility, both located on Old International Airport Road in Anchorage.

“Safety is the number one reason why our department exists,” Buttigieg said, “and it’s my number one priority when we are making policies or deploying funding.

“Under President Biden, we have the largest level of infrastructure funding that’s been available in my lifetime,” he added, “and we want to make sure that those investments enhance and improve safety for Americans, no matter where they live, no matter what they’re doing. So it was very helpful, for example, to have those conversations with the medevac teams here, that rely on the safety equipment. The FAA provides information about weather, things that lead to a ‘Go’ or ‘No go’ decision on whether they are able to safely launch what could be a life saving flight.”

Buttigieg indicated that even over a couple of days, his trip to Alaska has already been enlightening, with multiple adventures woven in – he even got to try muktuk at a potluck in Kotzebue – though his trip still includes a jaunt to Juneau for Wednesday.

“It was also, I wouldn’t say surprising, but striking, to see the pride that people take in their communities and their ways of life,” he said. “I think it’s a well-deserved and well-earned pride, given the challenges.”

Buttigieg’s office said the plan is to visit several others towns Wednesday as well, including Haines and Skagway. He said he is glad he will be able to learn more first-hand about ferry service, specifically in the Southeast.

“Seeing Kotzebue I think gives you a really great chance to understand the experience of Alaskan communities that are not connected by road,” he said, “and so many communities are in that circumstance. So from an infrastructure perspective, compared to just about any place in the Lower 48, it’s just profoundly different. And that’s part of why we’re here, to get a sense of the different things that are unique to Alaska, so that we can make the right kinds of policy decisions, and provide the right kind of funding and support, where it’s a large facility like the airport here in Anchorage, or a community like Kotzebue, or even smaller.”

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who also sought a presidential nomination in 2020, was confirmed as transportation secretary in Washington, D.C. in February of 2021, formally joining the Biden Administration at that time.

Buttigieg is expected to wrap up his tour on Wednesday evening. You can read more about the BIL on the USDOT website.