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President Biden praises Kansas City's free electric buses as the future of infrastructure

President talking at podium backed by flags and busses.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
President Joe Biden talks up his $1 trillion infrastructure plan inside the Kansas City Area Transit Authority bus barn on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden toured the Kansas City Area Transit Authority on Wednesday and spoke about the $1 trillion infrastructure plan that he signed last month.

President Joe Biden laid out a sweeping plan for the future of American infrastructure against the backdrop of the Kansas City Area Transit Authority during a visit to the city on Wednesday.

“We’ve always been a nation of possibilities,” he told a small crowd inside the Kansas City Area Transit Authority bus barn, explaining in broad strokes how the $1 trillioninfrastructure plan could be implemented.

“We didn’t become this nation by thinking small. We’ve always thought big,” Biden said.

Biden was accompanied by Mayor Quinton Lucas, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), who spoke briefly about the bill.

Ushering Biden through the facility was another president — Will Howard, the president of Local 1287 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

“It’s gonna bring money here for training, apprenticeship, for electric buses, mechanics and things of that nature,” Howard said. “It’s also gonna free up some of our local money here so that we can spend that money elsewhere."

Howard said he appreciated Biden’s affinity for union workers. He said the infrastructure bill was a way to help bus workers and passengers alike.

The crowd of about 170 people included union members, front-line workers, elected officials and local leaders.

Biden frequently referred to union workers and middle-class laborers in his speech, calling working-class people the backbone of the country.

Biden visits with workers inside the KCATA body shop prior to his speech Wednesday.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Biden visits with workers inside the KCATA body shop before his speech Wednesday.

He also applauded Kansas City’s zero-fare bus rides and its adoption of electric buses.

“It’s a win, win, win,” Biden said. “They’re manufactured here in America, creating good union jobs. They’re good for the environment and they’re making them free for all riders.”

Biden spent about 38 minutes talking up the infrastructure plan, but also said he will be touring to promote his Build Back Better bill, a $1.9 trillion social safety net measure, to complement the infrastructure bill. The measure passed the House last month but faces a tough road in the Senate.

If it's enacted, Biden promised it would deliver social infrastructure like universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, childcare support, affordable college tuition and lower prescription costs.

But it was the infrastructure bill that induced retired bus driver Regina Long to join the crowd, the first time she's ever seen a president up close in person.

She said the president’s plan made her hopeful.

“This is a good thing, especially for the people that don’t have cars and they rely on transportation to get back and forth to work,” she said.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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