This afternoon, I headed to Birmingham, Alabama, where Mayor William Bell and local transportation officials took me for a ride on one of the city's first hydrogen-powered full-cell buses and showed me downtown redevelopment efforts, including the desired route for future light rail transit service in under-served neighborhoods and plans for commercial and residential buildings near the proposed route.
After the tour, I visited the site of the future Birmingham Intermodal Facility, which, when completed next year, will tie together local buses, Amtrak, intercity buses, cars, and bicycles, and provide what's rightly been called "a new front door for Birmingham."
The project hasn't been easy -- it's come with its share of hard work and delays. But when it opens, it will also open the next chapter in the revival of this great downtown, which Livability.com just named of the "10 best downtowns" in the country.
It will bring new opportunity and greater access for everyone who lives here.
That's important, because as we know, so much of the history of civil rights here in Birmingham, in Alabama, and in the country, is tied to transportation.
Alabama is where Rosa Parks sat down on a bus for freedom -- and where the Freedom Riders rode for it.
Of course, we know that struggle wasn't just about where you can sit, but about where you can go.
That's just as true today as ever -- and why public transit is so important in cities like this one.
Transit has provided a ladder of opportunity for so many people, connecting them to better jobs, better schools, a higher quality of life.
And we have to make sure Birmingham's intermodal center continues in that tradition, not only anchoring development here in downtown, but also making that opportunity more accessible for more people throughout the area.
Now, Birmingham isn't the only city that needs new investments in transit. Across the country, we have $86 billion in transit projects that we need to address immediately. And this backlog is growing by about $2.5 billion a year, to say nothing of the backlog we're facing in highways, rails, bridges.
That's why I'm out here on this bus tour, and why I'll continue to fight for a multi-year transportation bill that will provide funding stability to communities across the country.