On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) had awarded 45 grants totaling $185 million designed to reconnect communities cut off by past transportation infrastructure decisions.
Part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the new Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program is a first-of-its-kind initiative that provides technical assistance and funding for planning and construction projects that are transformative community-led solutions to remove, retrofit, or mitigate transportation barriers like highways and railroad tracks. The grants will fund capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim land for housing, converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined streets, and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels, and trails.
“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” Buttigieg said. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries, and other essentials.”
Among the grants are $55.6 million for Buffalo, N.Y., to build a new highway cap and tunnel over the Kensington Expressway, a barrier that isolates residents on the city’s primarily Black east side; $30 million for the city of Long Beach, Calif., to redesign West Shoreline Drive to convert it from an urban freeway into a landscaped lower-speed roadway; and $1.2 million for the Sac and Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki to plan a project that would cross barriers formed by US Highway 30, that has created hazardous conditions for the tribal community that lives to the east of the highway, but works to its west.