‘A road’s a road’: Ron DeSantis sideswipes Pete Buttigieg for addressing racist highway design
Image via AP.

pete buttigieg
Prominent conservatives have mocked the Transportation Secretary for addressing systemic racism in highway design.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is on team “roads can’t be racist.”

The Governor took a brief shot at U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg after Buttigieg’s comments Monday regarding how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework, a President Joe Biden priority, will address systemic racism in highway design.

Some conservatives have mocked Buttigieg for dedicating resources to the “racism that went into those design choices,” as Buttigieg put it.

When a reporter in Spring Hill on Tuesday asked DeSantis about the infrastructure bill’s reparations provisions, the Governor largely deflected but not without taking a swipe at Buttigieg.

“I heard some stuff, some weird stuff from the Secretary of Transportation trying to make this about social issues,” DeSantis said. “To me, a road’s a road.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson featured Buttigieg’s comments during his show Monday night and criticized the Secretary for addressing the “racist road problem.” DeSantis appeared on Carlson’s show later in the hour to hammer Biden on illegal immigration.

“Roads can’t be racist anymore than toasters and sectional couches can be racist,” Carlson said. “They are inanimate objects. They’re not alive.”

The Governor has railed against the infrastructure bill this week, calling it “pork-barrel spending” and criticizing the package for benefiting “very high tax and dysfunctional states.”

Buttigieg — whose past political experiences include serving as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a Democratic presidential candidate — made the systemic racism comments during a White House press conference Monday after a reporter asked how the administration will address the “racism that was built into the roadways.” The Secretary said $1 billion of the $1.2 trillion bill, which passed Congress with the support of 13 Republicans, would be used to address systemic racism in highway design.

“I’m still surprised that some people were surprised when I pointed to the fact that if a highway was built for the purpose of dividing a White and a Black neighborhood or if an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach — or that would have been — in New York was designed too low for it to pass by that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality, and I think we have everything to gain by acknowledging it and then dealing with it.”

Like Carlson, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz mocked Buttigieg for the response.

“You see, we Hispanics are very, very tall, and we need rich, woke Dems to raise the bridges for us. Without Pete’s condescending help, there’s no way we can get to the beach…,” he tweeted Monday.

The Biden administration notes Florida has deep infrastructure needs.

“The need for action in Florida is clear. For decades, infrastructure in Florida has suffered from a systemic lack of investment. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Florida a C grade on its infrastructure report card,” asserts a Biden Administration fact sheet.

The White House says Florida has 408 bridges and more than 3,564 miles of highway in poor condition. The fact sheet denotes issues in other areas, including water quality, internet connectivity, and others.

Among the expected disbursements to Florida are $13 billion for highway improvement projects, $2.6 billion for public transportation projects, $1.6 billion for water infrastructure, $245 million for bridge replacement projects, $198 million for electric vehicle charging stations, and $100 million for broadband expansion projects. But despite Democrats who voted for the bill touting the revenue as a needed boost, DeSantis says more information is required.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


19 comments

  • Ricky Smith

    November 9, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    Ronnie D is the best Governor in the US. It’s sad there are so many Rinos in the Republican Party. Vote Rinos out! Get rid of David smith, Randy fines, and Jason broder!

    • Goldwaterite

      November 10, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      UPDATE: Our glorious VP & Border Czar has announced that tree planting is also racist. I kid you not.

  • zhombre

    November 9, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    The Whiz Kid from South Bend will make our infrastructure less RACIST. He needs to address turnstyles too. They impede minorities more than whites. Abolishing subway fares for persons of color could serve as a form of reparations.

    • Nervod

      November 9, 2021 at 7:49 pm

      Hahahahahahahahahahaha you are hilarious

  • Ron Ogden

    November 9, 2021 at 5:49 pm

    No one sat at their drawing boards in the 1960s saying, “Gee, how can we draw the map for this highway so we really screw with the Black folks?”
    Highways go where they are cheapest, easiest and quickest to build. Sometimes that was through land occupied primarily by minorities, and sometimes it wasn’t. GET OVER IT!

    • SLA

      November 9, 2021 at 10:28 pm

      They absolutely did that very thing. Read the 1974 biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker. He purposely ordered his engineers to build the bridges low over the parkway to keep buses from the city away from Jones Beach.

      • Confused

        November 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm

        And 50 years later.. they still haven’t found a way to get to the beach?

        • SLA

          November 12, 2021 at 8:06 pm

          That is not the point! They DID do what Ron Ogden said they didn’t do. They DID sit at a drawing board and PLAN to restrict access via public transportation. Are you too dense to figure that it was all about intent?

          • JSV

            November 13, 2021 at 1:12 pm

            Are you suggesting that IF the design had ANYTHING to do with restricting “busses”, that busses were filled with a “majority of minorities”? omg Then TRUCKS wouldn’t get through either, and that would mean they were racist against food, and building supplies, and textiles, and… oh never mind…
            ~JSV

          • Ron Ogden

            November 15, 2021 at 10:16 am

            From Wikipedia article: “Moses has been criticized for intentionally specifying very low heights for the bridges over the Southern State Parkway so that buses would not be able to reach the beaches that way, thus making it harder for poor people without cars to enjoy them. This is not true. All park way bridges in America at the time were built lowered to prevent commercial traffic from effecting the parks atmosphere.[15][16] However, public bus service from nearby Long Island Rail Road stations operated from opening day,[17] and various bus lines also operated service to Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.[18]

            Aw, gee, facts make us be less pissed, and we certainly don’t want to be less pissed in 2021, do we?

    • SLA

      November 9, 2021 at 10:29 pm

      “Planners of the interstate highway system routed some highways directly, and sometimes purposefully, through black & brown communities. In some instances, the govt took homes by eminent domain. It left a deep psychological scar on neighborhoods that lost homes, churches, schools.”

    • Richard Birdsall

      November 10, 2021 at 11:02 am

      Yes, they actually did just that. Much of our legislation is designed by lobbyists and the chief lobbyist behind the federal highway bill in 1956 that designed and created the interstate highway system Alfred Johnson who was the executive director of the American Association State Highway Officials. And he said later, quote, “city officials expressed the view in the mid 1950s that the urban interstates would give them a good opportunity to get rid of the local n____ town.”
      The source of that quote is Richard Rothstein, author of “The Color of Law.”

    • Dan Johnson

      November 10, 2021 at 8:00 pm

      No, they drew highways that wouldn’t affect white people. That is fricking obvious to anyone who looks at where they were built. Grow up.

  • Ocean Joe

    November 9, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    If you know anything about Miami, you know I-95 was laid right through Overtown, wiping out a thriving black business district. No doubt it has happened all over this country. A slum replaced the once prosperous center of Black life in Miami.
    Ron, the highway went where folks had the least political clout to stop it.

    • Ron Ogden

      November 15, 2021 at 9:19 am

      Read the history of the American highway system. Almost all the time highways connect URBAN areas. Almost always the people who are paying for the highways want to buy the LEAST EXPENSIVE land. It is sometimes the case that the LEAST EXPENSIVE URBAN land is where there are established communities of poorer people. That is simple logic. Sometimes this land is occupied by people of color. Sometimes it is not. And, I suppose, there have been occasions when people have felt ill will toward areas they considered to be slums. But it is not like people anywhere have been helpless. Time and again people–including people of color–have fought road projects. Sometimes they have won. Not all the time. But that is the problem with this entire debate: because certain people did not and do not win all their battles, it is taken as evidence by people of ill will that the system is bad. But that is irrational–just like this entire debate.

  • Tom

    November 9, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    Rachel Ryan, the reporter who asked peter b. Is a hack partisan Dem socialist.

    She sponsored a funder for him until she got called out.

    Total dupe.

  • Roger

    November 10, 2021 at 10:52 am

    People keep saying ‘Rona Ronnie is ignorant of the history of racist infrastructure in the U.S., and in his own state of Florida. I don’t think he’s ignorant. He just knows what to say (and do) in order to rile up is ignorant, Rightwing base.
    He knows exactly what he’s doing.

  • Paulie

    November 10, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Cope harder.

  • Susan Assel

    November 10, 2021 at 9:51 pm

    What’s your source for that statement?

Comments are closed.


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