NOEL NASH/CHRONICLE PHOTO

From left, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Lane Transit District general manager Aurora Jackson, Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis, and Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon listen to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday, July 15 at LTD’s station in Glenwood.

GLENWOOD – South Lane County is fully charged – just ask Pete Buttigieg, the United States Transportation Secretary.

As part of an infrastructure tour in Oregon on July 14, Buttigieg and congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) visited Lane Transit District in Glenwood, where they emphasized the benefits of infrastructure investments not unlike that of LTD’s fleet of electric buses. 

LTD, which ranks in the top 25 nationally per capita in transit ridership, will transition to a full-energy fleet by 2035, said Aurora Jackson, general manager. LTD already has 11 battery-operated electric buses, and 19 scheduled to arrive in 2022. 

Rubber literally met the road as Buttigieg and DeFazio took turns driving one of the District’s zero-emission electric buses before calling attention to a transit infrastructure bill that they say would have significant local impact. 

Authored by DeFazio, a $715 billion, five-year transportation bill, the INVEST in America Act, passed with bipartisan support in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1. It is now awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate. 

The bill would make transit and electric bus investments to provide better options for riders as well as reduce local air pollution and related health impacts, DeFazio explained, all of which is paired with Buy America requirements and provisions for workforce training. There would be a funding boost to roadway safety programs, bridge repairs and stabilization, investments in walking and cycling infrastructure, safe routes to schools, as well as smarter road design, he said. 

ERIN TIERNEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO

Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio (D), left, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on an LTD bus last week prior to each taking a turn driving it around the parking lot.

Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon said a transformation of Franklin Boulevard – the “backbone of the metropolitan area” – into a safe, modern, multimobile corridor would “have a catalytic effect” on one of Oregon’s biggest metropolitan areas.

Jackson said the bill could benefit LTD as well. 

“As we at LTD electrify our fleet and transition to our new service model, we need the resources to train and grow our union workforce to maintain and operate the transit system of the future,” she said.

Buttigieg told The Chronicle that rural areas such as Creswell, Cottage Grove and Pleasant Hill may actually benefit most by going electric. 

“This package will make it easier for Americans to take advantage of electric vehicles. I think it has been under-reported how important that is – perhaps especially to rural areas. Rural areas drive more and burn more gas; you save more money if you have an electric vehicle,” Buttigieg said. “If we can incentivize your price so that (electric vehicles) are not a luxury item, very few Americans have more to gain from going electric than rural communities.” 

DeFazio told The Chronicle that he recognizes that much of Lane County is rural, and that people in rural settings are “aging in place” and will need ways to get to doctor appointments and stores. 

“This will be the best bill ever for rural areas if I can get the Senate to agree to those provisions,” he said. “This bill is the most sensitive surface transportation bill for rural needs in the history of the United States.”