PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, U.S. Department of Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg talked to 12 News about the new bipartisan infrastructure law’s impact on Rhode Island, how 5G wireless could impact T.F. Green Airport, and what the Biden administration hopes to accomplish in its second year.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Friday that Rhode Island will receive more than $235 million over the next five years to repair decaying bridges. Buttigieg told 12 News the money from the infrastructure law will be made available this week.

Rhode Island has 148 bridges listed in poor condition, according to the announcement.

“It’s no secret that America has not invested enough, really over the last several decades, in our roads and bridges,” Buttigieg said. “And if a bridge is not safe, it has to be closed. That leads to diversions, delays, economic damage.”

“These bridge improvements are going to make a difference to every driver in Rhode Island and every driver in the country,” he added.

Buttigieg also oversees air travel in his position. CEOs of America’s largest airlines said this week that if Verizon and AT&T launch their 5-G wireless services, it would hinder aircraft technology and cause flight disruptions nationwide.

Verizon and AT&T have agreed to delay launching the new wireless service, and Buttigieg told 12 News these safety issues aren’t going to be a quick fix.

“Candidly, that’s going to take a while,” he said. “If you look at other countries, they’ve done things to adjust the power levels or tilt the antennas in different ways. These are exactly the kinds of technical steps that need to happen.”

Despite rising inflation and a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, Buttigieg is upbeat about President Joe Biden’s first year in office.

“If you look at where we were when we came in, in terms of the economy and the need for that American Rescue Plan that saved millions of jobs and led to the fastest job creation of any president in history in their first year,” Buttigieg said.

He also noted that few Americans were vaccinated against COVID-19 when Biden took office, saying roughly 75% of American adults are now vaccinated.

“As we look at the year ahead, we’re not slowing down,” Buttigieg said. “We have proposals to lower costs for Americans on everything from insulin to child care to health care.

“And we know that we need to do more for voting rights to protect democracy in this country,” he added.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook