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Butigeg launches $ 1 billion pilot to build racial fairness on the road

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The Associated Press

Associated Press

Hope Yen

Washington (AP) — Transport Secretary Pete Butigeg said Thursday that cities and neighborhoods were racially separated or divided by road projects. And despite the limited funding of the program, we promise a wide range of support to dozens of communities.

Under the community reconnection program, cities and states suffered damage caused by roads built primarily by low-income black communities after the interstate highway was created in the 1950s. You can now apply for federal aid for five years to remedy. system.

New projects may include high-speed bus transit lines to connect underprivileged areas to work. Built on a highway with green spaces, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, caps allow you to cross the road safely. Divert the old track. Partial removal of the highway.

Still, the grants available under President Joe Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law are significantly less than Biden's originally envisioned $ 20 billion. Advocates say there isn't enough money to make a significant impact on the capital construction of more than 50 citizen-led efforts nationwide to dismantle or redesign the highway from Portland, Oregon to New Orleans. I am. St. Paul, Minnesota; Houston; Tampa, Florida; and Syracuse, NY. Meanwhile, some Republicans, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is a 2024 presidential candidate, have accused the effort as an "awakening" of federal policy, suggesting a political crosswind for the election season. There is.

"Transportation can connect us with work, services and loved ones, but countless across the country because some of our infrastructure blocks our neighborhoods and communities. There aren't many cases, said Butigeg, who was announcing a pilot program late Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, to reconnect the community and address the issue with many ongoing efforts. I explained it as a "principle" of a wide range of departments, not just a program.

"This is a positive vision," Butigeg said. "Our focus is not to assign responsibility, not to be guilty. It is to solve the problem, especially if the damage is done in the taxpayer's dollar, it is to repair the broken one.

The Department of Transportation aims to support communities that feel racially vulnerable to highway expansion last year on the Federal Highway. The agency has taken a rare step to suspend the proposed $ 9 billion expansion project in Houston. Partially about civil rights concerns. This move may have spurred action elsewhere, such as Austin, Texas. In Austin, Texas, a judicial group of environment and race has recently filed a proceeding to force the Texas Department of Transportation to better present the impact of the proposed highway expansion.

Butigeg ignited some Republicans earlier this year when the federal government stated it was obliged to deal with the harm of racist design on the highway. "There are trees they are planting, they say the highways are racist. I don't know why they can do that," DeSantis said in February, dismissing "I woke up." did.

The program will receive $ 195 million in competitive grants this year, of which $ 50 million will be used by the community to conduct planned research.

This division will also launch a "Prosperous Community" initiative to provide technical support for potential projects that serve underprivileged communities alongside the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Department of Transportation previously said that under the new program, as many as 20 US communities could help remove parts of interstate highways and redesign roads with other transportation funds. I'm estimating. According to the department, communities that have won a grant from the reconnect community but still need additional funding will be prioritized in other pot applications for federal transportation. Dozens more communities can benefit from planning grants.

"Before 2021, the idea of ​​dealing with a community-divided highway infrastructure was a very auspicious idea," said Ben Crowther, coordinator of the Boston-based Freeway Fighters Network. I am saying. Parliament for new urbanism. "The Biden administration has really turned it into a mainstream way of thinking. Now we think this is possible. We will remove the highways, build safer roads that are easier to walk in, add more homes and move. We can meet the needs of the community outside of time. "