Reconnecting Communities awards advance needed change

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This morning, the Biden administration announced the first awards for the Reconnecting Communities Program. $185 million will fund 45 projects designed to address harms caused by divisive infrastructure. In response, T4A director Beth Osborne released the following statement:

“We commend USDOT for this commitment to reconnecting communities, a brand new concept for federal infrastructure dollars. The first round of awards is an encouraging list of projects to repair divides across the country, from Alaska to Puerto Rico, and in communities large and small, opening the door for greater economic opportunity and safer travel.

“With 435 applications received, there is clearly a huge demand for funds to repair and reconnect divides caused by harmful infrastructure projects. There are a wide variety of efforts listed, including removing highway ramps, turning high-speed roads into safer streets, highway redesigns and caps, and pedestrian tunnels. With such a range, the success of these projects will be an important lesson for future awards. With just $1 billion available over five years, the administration will need to continue to think carefully about which projects will maximize the program’s impact. Only six projects received capital funds for substantially advancing a project—signifying both the challenges in planning and advancing these projects, and the sheer limitations of the available funding.

“USDOT said today that reconnecting communities is not just a program, but a principle. USDOT will need to use every dollar and tool at their disposal to advance that principle which is being undermined by other state and metro transportation projects advanced by last year’s infrastructure law. Even as this modest but welcome $185 million will advance some exciting projects to restore communities, states are right now planning billions on projects that can  further divide and segment communities. The Reconnecting Communities Program should be the tip of the spear for ushering in a new paradigm for the rest of the federal transportation program.”

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