EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – At the Emerson Park Station on Monday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke aside Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Cori Bush to announce $28 million allocated to improving public transit, with $196.3 million also going directly to Metro improvements, including a whole new set of rail vehicles.

Buttigieg received a warm welcome Monday evening at a MetroLink station in East St. Louis, and the system’s 30th anniversary was not the only thing federal and local officials reflected on.

“This very week just last year, St Louis got two months of rain in just six hours,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush.

There is a concern that severe weather events, such as flooding, could cause significant damage to the infrastructure in the region, including the MetroLink. Officials are worried that these occurrences may become more frequent and severe in the future.

“These once-in-a-millennium or once-in-a-lifetime events are happening more and more often,” Buttigieg said.

He said that potential situations like that, which call for stronger infrastructure and public transit, would better safeguard the community.

“We’re here because we know how much transit means to people and because we know this community has been through a lot,” Buttigieg said. “As part of several public transportation and infrastructure investments to the region and the nation, it’s especially important to the state and this area in East St. Louis, where the public transit system ranks among priority.”

Non-white families in Illinois are 1.9 times more likely to commute via public transit. However, around 30% of these vehicles need replacement.

It’s concerning that the condition of the infrastructure and public transit systems in the area is only going to worsen. This is why the federal government is implementing significant measures to safeguard its future.

“Now, we gotta think about the next generation to serve this metropolitan area,” Durbin said.

Investments in public transit are paving the way for a better future. These investments are among the largest federal budgets allocated to their respective programs.

“St. Louis gets nearly $28 million to repair light rail, bus networks, subway tunnels, ferry operations, and other transit systems due to the climate changes,” Bush said, who has worked in the past several years to ensure funding for the area.

Nearly $214 million has been secured for flood relief efforts, and now an additional $196.3 million will be allocated to improve public transit. Specifically, this funding will go towards acquiring 48 new light rail trains, which could potentially be implemented within the next four years according to Metro.

“You will have newer, safer, faster trains to get you around the community for many years to come,” Buttigieg said.

He stated that it will be up to the Metro to ensure that these new cars are well-built and equipped to withstand specific weather conditions in the Metro East.

Durbin emphasized that achieving maximum safety and durability is crucial. There is optimism that this effort will bring about a stronger connection between both sides of the river.

“This idea of uniting Illinois and Missouri in a common effort is a smart thing to do,” he said.

The Metro East region, like many others across the country, is receiving substantial investment in its infrastructure and public transportation systems. This trend is anticipated to continue and grow in the coming years, according to federal officials.