Curtis Tate Published

Buttigieg Tours Fed-Funded Wheeling Main Street Project

A man in a dark blue suit and a light blue tie, seated at a table, presses a pen to his face as he listens to someone else speak.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listens to local government and business leaders in Wheeling on July 18, 2023.
Curtis Tate/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A long string of cars and trucks crept by as workers operated heavy machinery along Wheeling’s Main Street.

Traffic also slowed for a special guest: Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) secretary and a point person for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure law.

The department provided $16 million for the Wheeling project. It’s upgrading the sidewalks, stormwater drains, accessibility for people with disabilities, lighting and landscaping.

After years of neglect, downtown Wheeling is seeing a bit of a revival. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said the transformation looked familiar.

“Look, this is a community that reminds me of my own hometown, which is a place that saw its population peak in the 1960s,” Buttigieg said. “And when I was mayor, we fought hard to come back and to grow again. And I see that same kind of aspiration and that same kind of success building here. But it can’t happen unless you have the right kind of infrastructure. And sometimes taking care of the basics, streets, the sewers, the sidewalks, is the best thing you can do to make sure those businesses have a shot, too.”

Buttigieg participated in a roundtable discussion with local government and business leaders. 

He greeted local residents and shook the hands of construction workers. He said infrastructure projects benefit both big cities and small towns. He also said they bridge political divides. 

He credited Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, and Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, both from West Virginia, for helping get the infrastructure law through Congress.

“And the point is to get past all the politics and serve every American,” Buttigieg said. “And West Virginia is full of examples of communities that have a ton of potential, are starting to see that potential in a place like Wheeling come to life, but we have to have a good partnership to really get it done.”

More grants are coming, he said. The USDOT recently announced funds for street improvements in Parkersburg, a transportation terminal in Martinsburg and zero-emission transit in Grant County.