Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Following his visits to the Missoula airport, the CSKT Reservation, and lots of travel time seeing the beauty of western Montana, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg granted me an exclusive nearly 13-minute live in-studio interview in the KGVO Radio studio on Wednesday afternoon.

Secretary Buttigieg first described his reaction to the additions to the Missoula Airport, including the many new carriers recently added to carry travelers around the nation and the world.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Provides an Exclusive Live Interview

“The added capacity at the airport means more airlines and more flights can serve this region,” began Buttigieg. “That means helping to keep air fares under control, because I know affordability is a real concern. So seeing that we were not just creating a better day-to-day experience, but a more competitive landscape was really encouraging for us. The other thing I loved seeing there is that the first phase of that project came in under budget, which is what I'd love to see more of because usually with infrastructure, it tends to happen in the opposite direction.”

Secretary Buttigieg also referenced his visit to see the planned expansion project between Missoula and East Missoula.

Buttigieg Praised the Project Linking Missoula to East Missoula

“Everything we're doing is going to make a difference in day-to-day life,” he said. “The Safe Streets for All Grant that we're working with Missoula and funding to connect East Missoula even though it's only three miles away, is really cut off by the way that the highways run,” he said. “That's a big project for us, too. It's on my radar, even though it's one of many in that program because we really believe that that part of what we can do with our generation's worth of infrastructure is make sure that it really is connecting and not what you had sometimes in the past, because dividing a highway shouldn't stand between you and where you need to be.”

The discussion then led to electric vehicles and the necessary infrastructure needed in a state the size and population of Montana.

“It’s the same way that when you go out on the road now,” he said. “You know there's going be a gas station when you need it. We’ve got to make sure we get to the same place when it comes to EV (Electric Vehicle) charging. We're not just urging states to do that; we're funding states to do that. Every state has submitted a plan, making sure you'd never go more than 50 miles without coming to a charger. It's going to take a few years to put those up, and this is pretty new for us as a country, but we got to make sure we get that done.”

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Buttigieg said Eastern Montana Can Look Forward to More Electric Vehicles

Secretary Buttigieg gave his view on how people in lightly populated eastern Montana might be able to look forward to having more electric vehicles.

“People here are more likely to live in single-family homes which means you already have some kind of charging infrastructure in the form of a plug in the wall,” he said. “That's what we do at our house in Michigan. But also, the more you drive, the longer distances you cover, and the more of your money you're spending on gas and diesel; you’ll find it's cheaper to fill up a car with electricity than it is with gas and diesel. Provided we can make sure that the chargers are there when you need them, which is a big project for us, and also keep fighting to get the sticker price of those EVs down. I think there are a lot of people in these less dense areas who are going to find it's the right answer.”

LOOKING BACK: Photos of Missoula and How It's Changed

Check out these photos of how Missoula has changed over the past decade.

Gallery Credit: Ashley Warren

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