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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently joined Black mayors from around the country to discuss the Biden administration’s $3.3 billion “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods” program. This initiative aims to correct historical injustices by funding transportation projects that improve the lives of residents negatively impacted by decades-old transportation structures. Grants have been awarded to address issues such as highways that have cut off access to schools, career opportunities, and medical services in various communities.

The projects funded by the program will strengthen communities and create opportunities through better connectivity. Buttigieg emphasized that federal dollars are being used to address the harm caused by past infrastructure projects that often disproportionately affected communities of color. The goal is to ensure that these funds are part of the solution in communities where they have caused harm in the past.

One example of a project funded by the program is in Atlanta, where a highway will be capped to create new land in the downtown area. This approach will help heal the divide caused by the highway and provide a space for the community to thrive. In New Rochelle, New York, a grant will transform three highway lanes into a linear park, connecting the heart of the African American community to downtown. These projects are seen as opportunities to address the impact of past racist urban planning policies.

Birmingham, Alabama, and Tacoma, Washington, are among the cities benefiting from the grant program. In Birmingham, funds are being used to convert a one-way street into two lanes in the city’s Black business district. Mayor Randall Woodfin hopes this will lead to a revival of small businesses in the area. In Tacoma, a grant will study the impact of Interstate 5, which has divided much of the city since the 1960s. This study aims to address safety and accessibility challenges created by the highway and develop community-supported solutions.

Buttigieg noted that some of the projects are already underway, while others will take several years to complete. The overall goal is to address past harms in a way that benefits everyone and improves the quality of life in these communities. The projects funded by the program aim to create more equitable and connected transportation systems that address the specific needs of communities impacted by historic transportation structures. By investing in these projects, the Biden administration is working to create positive change in communities that have been affected by past transportation infrastructures.

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