La Crosse Municipal Transit Utility La Crosse, WI June 29 12:58 P.M. CDT
Good afternoon. Thank you, Laurie. Please, please, please sit down. I once said that to a big crowd; it was in the evening. I said, "Please, sit down." And there were no seats. They were out in a football field. (Laughter.) And the press pointed out, "Biden is losing it." (Laughter.) Well, I can see you all have seats. (Laughter.)
Laurie, thank you very much. I told Laurie, when she was showing me the bus she's driving now: Back when I was in law school, I drove a school bus during the summers to pick up spending money. And from one bus driver to another, Laurie, I want to thank you for all you do to make this city run, to help folks get where they need to go. And you do it in a way that sometimes is not always easy.
I'm glad to be here with great Wisconsin leaders. Gov, I guess I landed at the airport just a few minutes before you did. Thank you for making the effort to be here. And my good friend, Tammy Baldwin — Senator Baldwin is here. And Congressman Ron Kind is — and, Mom, thank you for raising a good kid. (Applause.)
And Mayor Reynolds. I was telling the Mayor — he just won reelec- — he won election. And I said, "You know, I always wonder why everybody runs for mayor," because they — it's the hardest job in American politics. They know where you live. You can't go to the grocery store. "Why is that pothole still there?" I get it. You don't even control that.
But anyway, Mr. Mayor, thank you for your service. Thank you for willing to serve.
I'm here in Wisconsin to celebrate a step forward for my country — our country — to talk a little bit about what it's going to mean for working families here in Wisconsin and across the nation.
When I was sworn in five months ago, I pledged to put my whole soul into bringing America together. I said I was running for three reasons, the last one of which I said is unite America.
I admit it's difficult, and I think some of my friends in the press thought it was impossible. I still don't think it is but — because I believe that there's nothing we cannot do if we bring — come together as a nation, Democrats and Republicans. And we're really divided on a whole range of things.
But if you look back across our history, from the Transcontinental Railroad to the creation of the Internet, you can see the truth in that idea, about coming together. Because America — America has always been propelled into the future by landmark national investments — investments that only the government has the capacity to make; only the government, working together, could make.
Today happens to mark — coincidental — but today is the 60th [65th] anniversary of one of those significant investments to change the nation. Sixty-five years ago today, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill that created the Interstate Highway System. Sixty-five years ago today. That was the last infrastructure investment of the size and scope of what — the agreement I'm about to talk about today.
It's time for us to write a new chapter in that story. After months of careful negotiation, of listening, of compromising together in a good faith, moving together, with ups and downs and some blips, a bipartisan group of senators got together and they forged an agreement to move forward on the key priorities of my American Jobs Plan — and one of them is sitting in front of me.
As a result, this is a generational investment — a generational investment to modernize our infrastructure, creating millions of good-paying jobs — and that's not coming from me; that's coming from Wall Street — millions of good-paying jobs that position America to compete with the rest of the world in the 21st century — because China is way out-working us, in terms of infrastructure.
And it's going to make the world of difference for families here in Wisconsin. Here's what it's going to do: This deal will put American workers to work in good-paying jobs, not minimum wage jobs, not 15-dollar-an-hour jobs. Prevailing wage job, good-paying jobs, repairing our roads and our bridges.
You all know why that matters. One in five miles of highway and roads in America are in poor condition. One in five miles. Some states it's worse where the weather is tougher. Five perc- — 50 years — 50  percent of our bridges are over 50 years old. More than 1,000 bridges here in Wisconsin are rated as structurally deficient by engineers. One thousand just in Wisconsin.
And I'm not — that doesn't make Wisconsin better or worse; it's — all across the nation is this way. The bridges — the 10 most traveled bridges in America need repair, and some need to be completely rebuilt. More than 600 — more than 600 here in the state of Wisconsin — bridges have weight limits to prevent trucks from crossing. That means long detours for farmers heading to market.
It's more than just an inconvenience; it's about safety, as well. In November 2019, a school bus in Arcadia, Wisconsin, tipped over going around a curve and went into a ditch with 20 students on board. It wasn't because of snow or ice; it was just an old country road. It was rough conditions. Thank God nobody was seriously injured at the time.
But this is a drain on our economy, as well. Typical American — typical American — and it varies slightly from state to state — but the typical American pays a hidden tax of more than $1,000 a year in wasted time — wasted time and fuel due to traffic congestion.
Now, in the more the rural areas, the less the congestion. But it creates other difficulties.
You all know that feeling: losing time, sitting in traffic, or being rerouted because the bridge isn't wide enough or the road is poorly maintained.
This deal is going to put Americans back to fixing all of that, and good-paying jobs. This deal will also put Americans to work replacing 100 percent of our nation's lead water pipes. You know, there's 400,000 — well, I won't get into the numbers; I get a little carried away — but it's really dangerous. Every single American child, at home or in school, will soon be able to turn on that faucet, and their moms and dads know that the water they're drinking is clean and safe.
I'll give you an example of why that matters. Just look at the city of Milwaukee. Milwaukee has more than 160,000 water service lines. More than 70,000 of them, nearly half, have lead service lines.
And, by the way, I'm not — it's not picking on Wisconsin, Gov. Every state is like this. But just to know what you're going to be doing for the state of Wisconsin here.
You know, we know that exposure to lead in drinking water can trigger a number of serious problems. Even low levels of lead can cause behavior and learning problems in children, impairing their growth.
There are up to 10 million homes with lead pipe service lines and pipes. Children in up to 400,000 schools — 400,000 schools — and childcare facilities are at risk of exposure to lead. This deal contains the largest investment in clean drinking water and waste water infrastructure in American history.
This deal also provides something you're very familiar with in the Island. It provides funding to get dangerous chemicals out of our water systems, known as PFAs, or "forever chemicals." This is a problem all across the country, and I know that you're feeling it right here — right here.
Here in La Crosse County, just this spring, the state had to provide free bottled water to thousands of people on French Island because they were worried about those chemicals in the groundwater, which were linked to cancer and other illnesses. We'll pay for that. We'll get that done.
We're also going to surge federal resources to help address the forever chemicals not just here, but all across America. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is not unique in this problem.
This deal will also put Americans to work building transmission lines — the largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history. Power outages cost the U.S. economy up to — now, this is — now, we know this, but until you add it up, it doesn't seem to be that big a deal. It costs the economy, Congressman, $70 billion annually. You hear me? Nationally, $70 billion annually.
And as climate change induces extreme weather events more and more frequently, we need to make investments to build a more resilient grid to carry this electricity.
The majority of the nation's grid is aging. Some components are over a century old. And 70 percent of transmission and distribution lines are well into the second half of their lifespans. You saw what happened in Texas this winter: The entire system in the state collapsed. The entire system.
That's why we have to act. This deal will modernize the power grid to be more energy efficient and resilient to — and resistant to extreme weather; resilient against bad actors who try to hack and attack the grid. Because I just spent a lot of time in Europe trying to work on that.
And it's going to strengthen and revitalize our natural infrastructure, like our coastlines and levees, while preparing our physical infrastructure for wildfires, floods, and other extreme weather.
Anybody ever believe you'd — you hear — turn on the news, and it'll say it was 116 degrees in Portland, Oregon. A hundred and sixteen degrees. "But don't worry, there is no global warming. It doesn't exist. It's a figment of our imagination." Seriously.
When a severe storm rolls in, like you had in some parts of the state just recently, the power is going to be less likely to go out, town water systems will be able to withstand what happens if we — once we make these investments.
And all — as all of you know, America has one of the highest road fatality rates of anywhere in the industrial world. Let me say that again: the highest road fatality rates of any industrial nation in the world. I lost a wife and daughter and almost lost two sons.
Look, our fatality rate is double the rate in Canada on a per capita basis. I bet every one of you here can tell me what the most dangerous intersections in your town are. I'll lay eight to five, no matter what the town is. Maybe you don't have many, but everybody knows what intersections are the most dangerous.
When you're teaching your kid to drive, what do you do? You tell them, "No, don't go down that road when you come home." I'm being deadly earnest. "When you come home, come home the other way."
Well, guess what? We got an agreement to invest $11 billion to help cities and localities reduce crashes and fatalities in the community — especially for cyclists and pedestrians, which are increasingly significant.
This deal is going to more than double the funding directed to state and local programs that improve the safety of people in vehicles, including highway safety, truck safety, pipeline and hazardous materials safety.
I won't even get into this now, but, you know, we have — we have thousands of miles of pipeline. The vast majority of those pipes are 60 years or older — some of them more than 80 years old. A lot of them are leaking.
This is the United States of America, for God's sake. What are we not doing?
This deal will also help high-speed Internet and make sure it's available to every American home, including 35 percent of rural families who currently go without it.
As of last spring, more than 82,000 children here in Wisconsin, which prides itself on its education, didn't have reliable Internet access at home. Think about that year — in a year of remote schooling. When so many of our needs and our connections were forced to move online, tens of thousands of Wisconsin kids got left behind.
Did you ever think, here in America, that kids would have to sit in a fast-food parking lot just to do their schoolwork and homework because they could connect online? Not a joke. Ask any mom who has kids in school or a dad who is taking care of them. No child should have to do that.
And no farmer here in Wisconsin should lose business because they don't have a reliable connection to the Internet — know when to buy, know when to sell, and know what's going on.
You know, back in 1936, the federal government brought electricity to nearly every home and farm in America, and it spread the opportunity out for cities in every part of the country. It changed the lives and fortunes of thousands and thousands of homeowners, thousands of hometowns, and millions of American families. And it set the stage for a massive, sustained economic boom that would follow World War Two.
High-speed Internet is the equivalent of that today. It's a similar — it's an equivalent of that. It isn't a luxury; it's now a necessity, like water and electricity. And this deal would provide for it for everyone, while bringing down the cost of Internet service across the board.
This deal has also put Americans to work through a first-ever national effort to install electric vehicle charging stations — 500,000 charging stations nationwide along our highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities as well.
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Read the full transcript HERE.
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