Biden-Harris Administration Announces First-Ever Awards from Program to Reconnect Communities

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February 28, 2023



Biden-Harris Administration Announces First-Ever Awards from Program to Reconnect Communities 

Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $1 billion over five years to address infrastructure barriers that limit mobility, access, or economic development for communities across the country

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a historic $185 million in grant awards for 45 projects through the new Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, a first-of-its-kind initiative to reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.

Established by President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Reconnecting Communities Program provides technical assistance and funding for communities’ planning and construction projects that aim to connect neighborhoods back together by removing, retrofitting, or mitigating transportation barriers such as highways and railroad tracks.  

Transportation infrastructure should help people get where they need to be, but, too often in our nation’s history, transportation infrastructure has done the opposite by dividing neighborhoods and cutting off communities from opportunity. For example, highways and rail lines can be physical barriers, preventing residents from easy access to social and economic opportunities. This burden is often felt most by communities of color.

This first round of grants will fund construction and planning for transformative community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined Complete Streets, and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels and trails. These projects will help revitalize communities, provide access to jobs and opportunity, and reduce pollution.

“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “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.”   

The Biden-Harris Administration believes that the promise of this nation is that every American has an equal chance to get ahead. President Biden recently issued a new executive order directing agencies to further advance racial equity and support for underserved communities including through federal actions that strengthen equitable development and expand economic opportunity in rural communities. Restoring communities like these helps give everyone a fair chance at accessing jobs and essential services such as healthcare services, grocery stores, and places of worship.

The Department has created a virtual story that spotlights communities’ stories, the historic context for the program, and the future it seeks through funding the reconnection of communities HERE.

In this first round of funding for the Reconnecting Communities Program, the Department is awarding 39 Planning Grants and six Capital Construction grants. Awarded projects include:

  • Buffalo, New York will receive $55.6 million to build a new highway cap and tunnel over the Kensington Expressway, a physical barrier that isolates residents on the city’s primarily Black east side. The cap will reconnect several east-west roads that the expressway severed, create greenspace, safer pedestrian crossings, and make it easier for residents to access community services and amenities like restaurants and cultural facilities.
  • The City of Long Beach, California will receive $30 million to redesign West Shoreline Drive, converting the urban freeway into a landscaped, lower-speed roadway. The newly designed roadway will open-up 5.5 acres of park space and serve as a gateway to better connect residents, visitors, and workers to the Pacific Ocean, local destinations, and downtown Long Beach. The project will use a project labor agreement and economic hiring preferences to target construction jobs to underserved communities.
  • Sac and Fox Tribe of Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki will receive $1.2 million to plan a project to cross barriers formed by US Highway 30, a highway that has created hazardous conditions for the rural, tribal community that lives to the east but works on the west side of the highway.
  • Birmingham, Alabama will receive $800,000 for the city’s Transportation Capital Investment Plan, which will advance data-driven transportation recommendations to mitigate the negative impacts of existing rail and highway infrastructure on the connectivity of many of Birmingham’s historic neighborhoods, and historically Black communities especially.
  • Baltimore, Maryland will receive $2 million to address the impacts caused by the construction of US 40/Franklin-Mulberry Expressway. Commonly referred to as “The Highway to Nowhere,” the never-completed project divided several historically Black communities on the city’s west side. This award will help plan for the redesign or removal of the highway to improve safety, access, opportunity, and innovation in West Baltimore. 

The full list of Reconnecting Communities program awards can be viewed HERE

The Department prioritized applications from economically disadvantaged communities, especially those focused on equity and environmental justice, and that demonstrated strong community engagement and stewardship, and would catalyze shared prosperity in its development and job creation. The Department partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development in its application review. 

Additionally, the Department is standing up the Reconnecting Communities Institute to provide technical assistance to build organizational and community capacity available to grant recipients and other eligible entities interested in reconnecting communities. The Department will prioritize recipients serving economically disadvantaged communities for technical assistance. More information on the Reconnecting Communities Institute is available HERE

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act also established a new, $3 billion program called the Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program which can also fund projects that reconnect communities. USDOT anticipates launching this program later this Spring.

USDOT is committed to supporting projects that reconnect communities across its programs. Earlier this year, DOT provided $105 million through the INFRA program for the I-375 Community Reconnection Project in Detroit, Michigan. The I-375, which opened in 1964, paved through two prosperous and vibrant Black neighborhoods – Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. The construction of the interstate displaced 130,000 people and hundreds of small businesses. DOT awarded a $105 million INFRA grant for this project converting the highway to a street-level Complete Streets boulevard with walkways and greenspace.

As part of its commitment to improving transportation equity and the Department's Equity Action Plan, USDOT also launched the Thriving Communities Program last fall, which facilitates the planning and development of transportation and community revitalization activities and provides tools to ensure that under-resourced communities can access the historic funding provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. More information on the Thriving Communities Program is available HERE.  

For more information on the Reconnecting Communities, including additional resources and information for interested applicants and stakeholders, click HERE

For more information about USDOT's Equity Action Plan, click HERE.