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Pete Buttigieg touts $25M RAISE grant

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MANCHESTER, N.H. – Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg returned to New Hampshire Monday to talk infrastructure and tout a $25 million grant to improve underutilized sections of Manchester’s Millyard and downtown.

During a press conference at Arms Park, he spoke of the growth of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co. in the early 1900s and how the Millyard has transformed over the years.

“The Millyard as we know it today has become home to innovative tech firms, restaurants, small businesses and of course to UNH,” the secretary said. “Jobs and opportunities are only meaningful if people have access to them. If people can get to them quickly, readily, safely and affordably.”

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant was competitive with only about $1 billion available with $10 billion in requests, Buttigieg said.

The enhancements will make it easier for people to get around no matter their mode of transportation and make improvements for better pedestrian and bicycle access.

“These are investments that don’t just benefit people in Manchester today, they position the city for a future of continued investments and jobs,” Buttigieg said.

“We look forward to seeing how Manchester will continue to grow through a combination of great transportation and great land-use policy and planning.”

Train talk

He also touted the recently passed $1 trillion infrastructure package, which he says represents a once-in-a generation investment in infrastructure and jobs. It includes the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak was formed in the 1970s, which will support a decades-long push for commuter rail service in southern New Hampshire, Buttigieg said

A small group protested Buttigieg’s visit holding signs that read “End Washington Waste.”

“Stop wasting our taxpayer money,” Michelle McNeil of Epping shouted. She held a sign that read “Whoever voted for Biden owes me gas money.”

Americans for Prosperity State Director Greg Moore called expanded commuter rail services a boondoggle.

“For years, politicians have been trying to sell Granite Staters on a new passenger rail service that would do little to nothing to solve our state’s commuting problems,” he said in a statement.

New Hampshire is set to get $1.4 billion for highways and bridges, $15 million to make local streets safer and $126 million for mass transit.

He said rail will connect Granite State residents to much of the East Coast. He spoke of Americans who have experienced rail in the United Kingdom and other countries such as Japan, Turkey and Morocco.

“They come back and say, ‘Why can’t we have that?’” he said.

Lori Harnois, the state’s travel and tourism director, said overseas visitors without driver licenses look for such transportation options when they travel to the U.S.

Passenger rail will have a statewide impact on the economy with the potential to bring thousands of jobs and spur development, said Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber.

Studies show rail will bring 5,600 permanent jobs and support 3,600 new residential units.

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess said a survey shows 90% of residents support the two commuter rail stations proposed in that city. Such rail services help lure new businesses to the region, he said.

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said the federal funds give the city the momentum to make passenger rail a reality.

Buttigieg was joined by Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen and Reps Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas.

Kuster spoke of how rail used to support the city’s textile industry for both raw materials and finished products and routes used to support ski resorts up north.

Shoshanna Kelly, an alderwoman at-large in Nashua, spoke of how rail will attract workers to large companies like BAE Systems or even her own small marketing business.

“There is lots of great talent in Boston, but they don’t want to drive an hour to get here,” she said.

The rail will be key in drawing workers from Massachusetts, said John Allard, chairman and CEO of Granite State Manufacturing in Manchester, which recently opened a second location in Nashua.

Joseph Casey, a representative from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, spoke of the challenges for contractors to find workers. The infrastructure package will help launch careers for thousands of workers.

“Any type of infrastructure brings a lot of opportunity for the communities affected,” he said.

The union is ready with training programs to bring on new workers, Casey said.

The Transportation Department plans to partner with organized labor groups such as the IBEW and community colleges to train new workers, Buttigieg said.

“There is a reason the word ‘jobs’ is in the name of this bill, and let me say this is different from 2009. This isn’t about short-term stimulus and just making sure we pump as much into the economy as we can,” he said. “This is a vision that is really taking us into the years to come.”