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Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg tout $1.2 trillion infrastructure law in Charlotte visit

Steve Harrison/WFAE
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke Thursday in Charlotte.

Vice President Kamala Harris touted the Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure law during a stop in Charlotte on Thursday, saying robust transit systems help low-income workers.

Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the Charlotte Area Transit System light rail maintenance facility on South Boulevard.

Harris said the bipartisan law will include more than $900 million for transit systems in North Carolina.

“For millions of Americans, public transportation is part of their day — every day,” Harris said. “And a bus stop within walking distance can make all of the difference versus a bus stop you have to walk for half an hour to get to.”

The new infrastructure law has billions for roads and bridges, transit, high-speed internet and passenger rail. It also has money to build charging stations for electric vehicles, and for “resilient infrastructure” that can withstand the impacts of climate change.

Buttigieg said Charlotte’s original horse-drawn streetcar system at the end of the 19th century created a “transportation revolution” because it meant people didn’t have to live near there they worked.

“So leaders in Charlotte knew then what we know now,” he said. “That public transit makes life better for people by increasing access to opportunity.”

CATS is hoping to spend $13.5 billion to expand its transit system, including a new light rail line from Matthews to the airport, as well as an extension of its Gold Line streetcar.

It’s unclear how much money Charlotte will get from the law or whether any of it would go toward expanding CATS.

Harris and Buttigieg spoke in front of electric CATS buses. Charlotte Rep. Alma Adams and Mayor Vi Lyles also spoke.

The event was not open to the public.

Moving the transit plan forward has been challenging. CATS is trying to determine how it will pay for the plan.

And it’s also facing headwinds in terms of transit ridership. Ridership on CATS trains and buses is less than half of what it was before the pandemic. And in October, local bus ridership declined compared to October 2020 – when much of the city was still working from home.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.