Good morning and thank you for inviting me to this event. It’s a pleasure to be here today along with Chairman Lewis, Senator Bayh, Mayor Luecke, Mayor Rea, and honored guests.
On behalf of President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, I want to congratulate the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka and the entire TRANSPO leadership, for their drive and vision in bringing us to this historic day.
It is indeed an historic day, not just for St. Joseph County but for the entire country. It’s an historic day for our efforts to clean up our environment. It’s an historic day in our efforts to put people back to work and revive our economy.
This project that we are breaking ground on this morning has been talked about for years and years. For years, TRANSPO has been piecing together several different Federal and State grants to make this project a reality. Some of those grants have come from the very hard work of Senator Bayh. Others have come through our Federal transit formula funds.
The culminating event that put this project over the goal line was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). With the additional $3.7 million that the Recovery Act provided, we moved this project from a series of dreams and drawings to a contract that is going to immediately put hundreds of citizens from this community back to work.
That means hundreds of families in this region that will once again have a steady paycheck…and the stability that comes with a steady paycheck. This is precisely the kind of investment that President Obama envisioned when he championed the Recovery Act.
These are investments where the dollars are invested right here at home. These are investments where every taxpayer dollar is spent right here in the United States. These are investments that improve the lives of regular folks – folks that need a job, folks that ride the bus.
These are investments that go even farther by improving our environment and giving us a cleaner place to raise our children.
I have to say that when I read that this facility was going to be built to the LEED platinum standard, I did not believe it. I read it again. And then I read it a third time. This is no small feat. It is more than a special accomplishment for TRANSPO. It is an accomplishment for the entire nation.
This is something that transit agencies in places like New York or Atlanta or Los Angeles have considered. But they then abandoned the idea and have settled for just the gold standard or the silver standard. Achieving the platinum standard was just too hard – it was just too much effort. That may be true for New York or Los Angeles, but not for South Bend.
This is going to be a bus facility. It’s going to be more than just an office building. It is going to be a place where we maintain buses and wash buses. This is not a facility that easily lends itself to design standards that improve our environment.
But South Bend has taken up the challenge and shown us that it can be done. When I read that South Bend was actually going to build a bus maintenance facility to the LEED platinum standard, I was floored. I said that those folks in South Bend aren’t just hugging the trees; they are hugging them so tightly that they are chewing on the bark.
So, as the Federal Transit Administrator, on behalf of the entire nation, I want to thank Senator Bayh, the leadership of South Bend, and TRANSPO, for leading the way for our entire country. It’s impossible to overstate the symbolism of this event. South Bend is going to build the nation’s most environmentally-friendly transit facility right on top of a former Brownfields site. You are building an environmentally-friendly facility on property that was once an environmental hazard.
This effort may be symbolic for the nation, but it is more than just symbolism for the folks here in South Bend. In South Bend, this effort means bricks, and mortar, and most importantly, jobs for hundreds of families that need them right now.
That is what this Recovery Act and this groundbreaking is all about. It’s about efforts that put people back to work and projects that improve the quality of life for all of us.
Now, in this brief speech I have given, I have thanked you on behalf of myself, on behalf of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and on behalf of President Obama. But there is one more thank you I need to express. It is from a person who matters more to me than all those other people combined.
I want to thank South Bend for their leadership on behalf of my wife. My wife is a proud graduate of Indiana University South Bend (IUSB).
Today, she serves as Legislative Director for the Majority Whip of the United States Senate. But long ago, her very first job in public policy – the job that gave her the bug to work in politics – was working for the then-Mayor of South Bend. She would leave South Bend for Washington, where she would gain a Master’s Degree at Georgetown and work as public policy advisor to many different communities. Those communities included the City of South Bend and its TRANSPO transit system.
That was many years ago, but back when she was working with TRANSPO, my wife had the opportunity to work with Lucky Reznick. So she was especially pleased when I told her that this facility would be named in his honor.
My wife is a daughter of this community. So while I can say, as President Obama’s Federal Transit Administrator, that the nation is proud of South Bend’s leadership, what matters even more in our house is that my wife is so proud of what her own community has done.
Thank you very much for having me today. And congratulations to everyone that made this great accomplishment possible.