U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Houston on Monday to see, firsthand, how tens of millions of federal dollars will be used to improve the region’s transportation needs. Here at the invitation of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Sec. Buttigieg was able to see how federal funding would be used for the continued modernization of Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Buttigieg and Jackson Lee were joined by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and other local leaders at George Bush Intercontinental Airport to present a $40 million check for infrastructure. 

“Not only did we announce $43 million in federal funding that will enhance aviation travel at IAH airport in my district, but I have urged the community to begin to seek the next level of funding through grants,” Jackson Lee said.

Buttigieg said the funding will be used to help improve airport security checkpoints, baggage claim areas, gates and pickup and drop off spots. 

“When you are checking in you should be able to check your bags and get to your gate without any unnecessary delay,” Buttigieg said. “If you’re traveling with small children like Chasten and I are, you should have an easy place to change your baby on a layover for work you should be able to plug in and charge.”

Added to ongoing renovations, the facility was awarded the $40 million earlier this year to help expand Terminal A, which is largely unchanged since its construction in the 1970s. 

The city’s aviation department says some original equipment, that remains, can’t even be turned off for maintenance, for fear it won’t turn back on.

“(The funding) is going to make it faster and easier to do all those things,” says Secretary Buttigieg. “Check your bags, get through security, find your gates; it’s going to reduce the carbon footprint of this airport, and it’s going to drive jobs and economic growth in Houston for years to come.”

“This financial investment will help to usher in the next generation of airports; airports that are even safer and more sustainable,” adds Houston mayor Sylvester Turner.

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia says Hobby Airport also received funding through the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

“I represent Hobby and it’s great to say I represent a five-star airport,” Garcia added with a smile. “I now have a great line for my district, because not only are we five-star, we have money to address the equity issues and access. The upgrades that will be done will help serve the disabled community.”

During his visit to Houston, Buttigieg also addressed major infrastructure projects funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Buttigieg said that $21 million will be used to buy a new fleet of electric buses, which would help with less greenhouse gases, pollution, and faster commutes.

“$21 million from the infrastructure law and our department to rebuild Telephone Road to make it safer, new sidewalks, better crosswalks, more protective bike lanes, protecting some of the most vulnerable road users,” Buttigieg said. “Those users are some of the most underserved residents in this city and I’ll tell you, mayor and everyone else that was part of that, each of these members supported that application.”

Garcia is a strong supportive of the plan.

“The Race grant is very important because this is money that is going to an area that is underserved, that’s been neglected for some time,” Garcia explained. “Under this administration and Joe Biden and Mr. Secretary there is a big emphasis on equity and serving the underserved communities and those who can least afford to get around.”

The project will help accommodate a population that’s expected to double in the next 20 to 30 years. “It’s good for him to see what we’re doing, so we can partner with our federal partners; so we can get things built; so people get to use them,” says METRO chairman Sanjay Ramabhadran. 

Advocates say the funding for roads, airports and public transportation is vital, and a significant step forward. 

They also say it’s just a down payment for what’s to come.

Houston Public Media contributed to this report