Exclusive: 1-on-1 with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Eyewitness News spoke one-on-one with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday.

During the secretary's first year on the job, congress passed a bipartisan infrastructure law that includes the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.

Within that package, New York is getting nearly $2 billion to improve over 10,000 highway bridges across the state that are in poor or fair condition.

The bill also designates billions of dollars in funding to finally jumpstart construction of the Gateway program, which will eventually double the train capacity between Newark, New Jersey, and New York City.

But first off, Eyewitness News anchor Mike Marza asked Buttigieg about the concern surrounding airplanes and 5G wireless service.

The White House asked AT&T and Verizon to delay the launch of 5G service near key airports after some airlines said the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause widespread flight disruptions.

"The FAA's bottom line has to be safety and obviously one catastrophic accident out of a million is unacceptable as you can imagine there is a lot of complex analysis rigor that goes into this," Buttigieg said. "This has been a subject of a lot of discussion for quite awhile. I appreciate the wireless carriers being willing to work with us to get the type of data so these two technologies can coexist safely and I'm convinced they can."

Buttigieg also spoke about the billions of dollars in funding for transportation projects around the Tri-State area.

New York will receive $1.8 billion and New Jersey will receive $1.1 billion. But when will Tri-State residents see the impacts of the new plan?

"Well this funding can begin to flow right away," Buttigieg said. "We've already loaded it into the system for the Federal Highway Administration and it can be obligated right away. I want to be clear this is not just about a seasonal project or getting through this year, we're talking about generational investments. That built the infrastructure in the first place. When you look at some of these bridges and tunnels, they represent the state of the art technology from 100 years ago. We now need to be making decisions for the next 100 years and build accordingly."

Buttigieg said to prevent climate change from getting worse, they are focusing on two things: pushing to make electric vehicles available and affordable for everyone and dealing with climate impacts that we've already seen from storms like Sandy and Ida.

"In the New York area, that's why there is dedicated money for resilience evacuation routes, for example, if a road is getting washed out every year, maybe we don't fix it back the way it was, maybe it has to go somewhere else or be redesigned," Buttigieg said.

Marza then asked Buttigieg what can be learned out of the bipartisan agreement on infrastructure that can be used toward tackling other major issues in the country.

"I think the bridges that we're literally building also represent a metaphorical bridge that we really need in this country, it was extraordinary to see on the south lawn of the White House with the president, Republicans who were crossing over to join Democrats in voting for this infrastructure package because it was the right thing to do, because it was going to make a difference in this country," Buttigieg said. "We don't see nearly enough of that."

Check out the rest of the one-on-one interview with Buttigieg above, including his thoughts on becoming a new father and what grade he would give the Biden administration.

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President Joe Biden said of the last twelve months, "It's been a year of challenges, but it's also been a year of enormous progress."

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