Remarks on Infrastructure Improvement Efforts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The President. Hello, Pittsburgh! Please, sit down, if you have a seat.
And, Gov, since you don't have a coat on, this is going to be painfully short. [Laughter] I'm not going to keep you too long.
It's great—thanks for that introduction. I really appreciate it, Greg.
And you know—and thanks to the elected officials here today: Governor Wolf, one of the best Governors I've ever served with in my life. And one of my best buddies from Scranton, as we say: Bobby Casey. I know his dad, and his mom is still around. And Representative Doyle, which—[inaudible].
[At this point, the President's handheld microphone malfunctioned. He continued his remarks using the podium microphone as follows.]
Microphone's out now. Is this working? I tell you what—how about this one? Is this working?
Audience member. Yes, that's working.
The President. Well, I tell you what—I knew he'd come here and do this. [Laughter] No, I'm joking.
[The President spoke into the handheld microphone, which now functioned properly, as follows.]
Can we get—there you go. All right.
And Lieutenant Governor——
Representative Michael F. Doyle. Just as you were saying something nice about me.
The President. I was saying something nice about you—that's why it went out. [Laughter] But I'm saying we're going to try like the devil to keep you from having to—well, not having to—deciding to leave. I wish you didn't.
And, John, thank you very much for running. I really do appreciate it. And, Gisele, you're going to be a great lady in the Senate.
As I've said before, that America is the only country in the world that comes out of crises stronger than we went into the crisis. And that's the story I want to tell here today, briefly. Just 9 months ago—January 28 in 2022—I was about to leave the White House on my way to Mill 19 here in Pittsburgh to talk about the resurgence of American manufacturing. And by the way, we've created 700,000 manufacturing jobs since then.
Before I left Washington, I got word about what happened earlier in that day. At 6:45 on a snowy day, the bridge behind me collapsed, a hundred feet straight down to Fern Hollow. And five cars and a bus were crossing the bridge at the time. Several people were injured.
But by the grace of God, the school was delayed that day because of snow, and it was just before rush hour, so there was less traffic than usual. It had been a normal—had it been a normal day, it would've been much, much worse.
I decided still to come to Pittsburgh. I came straight here from the airport. When I arrived, Mayor Gainey—who is not here right now, but was here—and Bobby and Conor and John Fetterman were all here, along with the responders. You all told me about the emergency workers who had pulled the survivors to safety. They were heroes that day, and a complete catastrophe was avoided. But it never should have come to this.
For too long, we talked about building the best economy in the world and the best infrastructure in the world. We talked about asserting America's leadership. We talked about the best and the safest roads, railroads, ports, airports, and so much more.
But now—now—we didn't do it, but we're finally getting to it. We're getting it done. We're finally deciding that instead of being ranked number 13 in the world—13 in the world in infrastructure—the United States, 13 in the world in infrastructure—we should be ranked number 1. So, instead—[applause]—instead of Infrastructure Week—which was a punchline for 4 years under my predecessor—it's "Infrastructure Decade," a headline on my watch.
And with the help of your Members of Congress here today, I signed into law a once-in-a-generation investment in roads, highways, bridges, railroads, ports, airports, and so much more—over a billion two hundred—a trillion 200 billion dollars. It's called the bipartisan infrastructure law, and it's the most significant investment in American infrastructure in roads, bridges, et cetera, than Eisenhower's—since Eisenhower's Interstate Highway system.
Pennsylvania alone has already received $5.2 billion just this year for hundreds of projects across the Commonwealth. And that's just announced another $2.5 billion to fix and upgrade Pennsylvania's roads and bridges, and there will be billions more for other projects.
Let me tell you why this matters. When I was here in January, I told the Governor that we'd help and we'd be—help rebuild this bridge behind us as fast as we possibly could. That day, the Governor moved and signed an emergency order that let us move separate Federal funding as quickly as possible to the project.
The reason we could do that is because I had just signed the infrastructure law a few months earlier. But had we waited for that money, it would have taken longer. The Governor knew he could count on the new law to fund other projects to ensure the projects he already had started for infrastructure in the State would not be slowed down in the process.
The result: Pennsylvania has been able to repair Fern Hollow Bridge in less than a year. And by Christmas, God willing, we'll be walking—[applause]—I'm coming back to walk over this sucker. Although my staff said to me, "You realize how many times you've been to Pittsburgh?" I said, "No." They said, "Nineteen." I said: "Bobby, don't tell them in Scranton. Don't tell them in Scranton." I—anyway.
But we—it's being done in record time. Normally you'd be looking at 2 to 5 years to build a bridge like this, literally. And the total project costs $25 million, fully paid for by the Federal Government.
And by the way—and by the way, in the process of that, not a single penny of that money was—has cost anybody making under 400 grand in the Nation to pay a penny more in taxes. And by the way, in the process, we also cut the deficit in this process nationally by a trillion four hundred billion dollars just this year.
So, Gov, the fact is, it wouldn't have happened without you, Gov. It wouldn't have—no, it wouldn't have happened this time. That's not hyperbole. That's a fact. And you're working so hard to get it done. I want to thank you. This really matters.
Folks, folks in the neighborhood relied on this bridge and the walking path underneath to commute to work, to take their kids to school, to run errands, to stay connected to other neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill and the—and Waterfront and Oakland.
And below the bridge, Frick Park is going to be fixed up, when this is done, to better than it was: hiking paths, new seating areas. This bridge was built initially in 1901. It was rebuilt in 1970. These guys behind me know that. None of them were here then, I don't think. But the fact of the matter is, now it's a modern bridge of the 21st century with four lanes for vehicle traffic, a path for cyclists and pedestrians.
This project—this project—has supported over a hundred jobs, good-paying construction, union jobs. Laborers, carpenters, cement mason. So many more. The contractor delivering this project, by the way, has been a company that's been owned by the same family for four generations, a union company since 1930s that built our roads and our bridges, building during the New Deal, during Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System, and now the bipartisan infrastructure law.
But you know, this is—one bridge also tells a broader story. There are nearly 45,000—say it again—45,000 bridges across this country in poor condition. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 3,100 bridges and 7,500 miles of highway in poor condition. And as I was talking to your person, Gov—also, we're going to get the railroad going too. I'm a rail guy. Anyway.
Pittsburgh is a city of bridges, but too many of them are in poor condition, like this bridge behind me before it collapsed. But with the bipartisan infrastructure law, we're doing something about it. This is just one of 2,400 bridges across the country that are being repaired just this year because of this law.
For example, the Allegheny County work is underway to repair the bridges of the Boulevard of the Allies. Not just bridges though. Just outside of Pittsburgh, we're investing $850 million to replace and expand a 100-year-old Montgomery Locks and Dam that's critical to the Nation's economy.
And I'm—we're investing—that investment is going to increase the capacity of this system—the locks—over 50 percent at a critical choke point in the river. That means we're going to be able to move an additional 14,000 barges every year, saving the equivalent of having to have 1 million hauls on tractor trailers to get the same material to where it has to go. These savings are going to allow the locks to be more efficient and move 10 billion tons of goods like coal, petroleum, and steel.
And as a consequence, we're lowering the cost of transporting these materials, but just as important—just as important—we're going to reduce emissions that can come from the trucks and trains hauling it over through—by reducing it by 3.5 million tons of CO2 a year. Three-point—cutting pollution in the air we breathe. This is good for the economy and the environment and public health.
And, Bobby, I promised you—he'd been on my back to get this done for—since I got elected President. "Don't forget the locks, Joey." [Laughter] So I just think—[laughter]—I'm not sure how we're going to do this, but so long as I—I couldn't say no. So if we get the money for the locks projects done, and I think we should call it "Casey's Lock." I don't know. [Laughter] But, Bobby, you have been—for a Scranton guy to worry about the locks on this side—anyway. [Laughter]
In the Hill District of Pittsburgh, we're providing funding to revitalize the area by making sidewalks and streets safer for pedestrians and drivers and connecting communities that suffered for decades for lack of investment.
And thanks to the infrastructure law, Pennsylvania is going to get $170 million over 5 years to build out the electric charging stations that are going to be available to all the electric vehicles that are going to be on the road. And that's just what we need, because half of the new car sales in America are going to be electric by the end of this decade. My administration has recently approved Pennsylvania's plan so the funds are available now, so the IEBW [IBEW]* can start constructing these facilities.
We're putting $20 million into a new 700,000-square-foot terminal at the Pittsburgh Airport to include upgrades to the screening system—security screening, baggage check system so it's easier and more efficient to catch your flight.
No one knows better than the people of Pittsburgh that there are thousands of uncapped or orphan wells—oil and gas wells—spewing methane into the air—these abandoned mines scattered throughout this area.
It's a legacy left behind by the mining, oil and gas companies. When the wells and fields went dry, the companies left, and people—and left it to the people of Pennsylvania to clean it up. Well, guess what? We're going to clean it up.
Now, my Department of Interior is sending Pennsylvania close to—and, Conor, I know you've worked on this—close to $350 million this year to cap the wells and reclaim the abandoned man—mine lands and polluted waterways, creating good-paying jobs in the process for the folks in the same communities that dug the wells in the first place.
In addition, we're investing at least $100 million in Pennsylvania to get high-speed internet across the State, in every part of the State, urban, suburban, and rural. And no one is going to be left behind.
Twenty-one percent of Pennsylvania families don't have home internet connections. But never again should a parent have to drive their kid to a McDonald's parking lot and sit there to connect to a McDonald's internet so they could do their homework. Not a joke. You saw it happening.
In addition, there are over 150,000 lead service lines carrying water to homes and schools in Pennsylvania and over 7,000 in Pittsburgh. This impacts children's brain development. I mean, for real. It's a hazard to their health. You can't have this in Pennsylvania. We can't have this anywhere in America. Now Pennsylvania is going to get $87 million to replace these lead pipes, because every person, every child in this country should have access to clean, safe drinking water.
And by the way, these projects are going to create good-paying, mostly union jobs. That's because I made sure the overwhelming majority of the funds of this infrastructure law are subject to Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements.
I said when I ran: We're going to build the country from the bottom up and the middle out, not the top down. When the middle does well, the wealthy do very well. So this law is about more than rebuilding our infrastructure. It's about rebuilding the middle class, something John knows a lot about and talks a lot about.
And let me tell you: I'm a proud Delawarean, but Pennsylvania is my native State. It's in my heart. I can't tell you how much it means to me to be part of rebuilding this beautiful State. My grandfather Finnegan from Scranton would really be proud of me right now. No, you—I'm not joking. [Laughter] He would. By the way, he was an All-American football player, John, in Santa Clara.
You know, I started my campaign for President here in Pittsburgh because there's no better place to talk about rebuilding the backbone of America, the middle class. After I accepted my party's nomination, Pittsburgh was my first major stop. It's here that I laid out my vision for building a better America with better pay and dignity—dignity—for working people, people who built this country. My dad used to say everybody—everybody—should be treated with dignity no matter what they're—where they're from.
Because here's what I know: For most of the last century, we led the world by a significant margin because we invested in our people, we invested in ourselves, we invested in our land. But along the way, we stopped doing that. But not anymore. We're back on track.
When you see these projects in your neighborhoods—cranes going up, shovels in the ground—I want you to feel the way I feel: Pride. Pride in what we can do when we work together. And that's what I mean when I say we're building a better America.
And, folks, let's get something straight. We managed to get some Republicans to vote for this, 13 in the House and 19 in the Senate. And I'm truly grateful for them. I mean it sincerely. But a whole lot more voted against it, but are taking credit for it now. [Laughter]
You know, you may have seen the news reported on CNN describing Republicans who voted [against]* the infrastructure law after attacking me and Democrats for passing what they called "socialism." Socialism. Well, now they're quietly and privately sending me letters—[laughter]—not a joke—my administration, asking for money—asking for that money—talking about how important the projects in their district are and for America.
I've got to say, I was surprised to see there are so many Socialists in the Republican caucus. [Laughter] But look—and I mean this sincerely—even I—even if they voted against it, I promised when I ran, I'd be President for all the American people. Everyone. We're building a better America together, even in districts where Congressmen voted against this. They're going to get the money.
And one last thing. This is all being done without raising anyone's taxes a penny if you make less than 400 grand. And we did it while cutting the deficit in half this year—in half.
Let me close with this: It's been a rough 4 or 5 years in this country. For a lot of families, it's still kind of tough. But there are bright spots where America is reasserting itself, like here, where the best workers in the world are hard at work building a future—a better future for everybody.
We're proving our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. We just have to keep it going, and we know we can. I have never been more optimistic about America's future than I am today. And I really mean that.
Just remember—we've got to remember who we are. We are the United States of America. There is nothing beyond our capacity if we work together, as this is example of.
So God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. And thank you for what you've done, particularly all the workers here.
NOTE: The President spoke at 1:40 p.m. at the Fern Hollow Bridge reconstruction site in Frick Park. In his remarks, he referred to Greg Stahl, a member of the Carpenter Union Heavy Highway Local 274 and carpenter for Swank Construction Co.; Ellen Harding Casey, mother of Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr.; Pennsylvania Democratic senatorial candidate Lt. Gov. John K. Fetterman and his wife Gisele; Rep. Conor J. Lamb; former President Donald J. Trump; and Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, Engineering District 11 executive, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
* White House correction.
Joseph R. Biden, Remarks on Infrastructure Improvement Efforts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/358447