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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announces ‘Reconnecting Communities’ infrastructure program in Birmingham visit

Thursday, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Birmingham and announced the $1 billion pilot “Reconnecting Communities” program, which is meant to help cities and neighborhoods that were racially divided by roads and other transportation infrastructure projects.

Birmingham will receive some funding from the program to build its new Birmingham Xpress bus rapid transit service.

Joined by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and other community leaders, the Buttigieg said the pilot program would help “deliver a transportation future that connects communities and helps residents get where they need to go.”

Buttigieg said there were too many infrastructure projects in the past that were built to hurt minority communities.

“[W]e can’t ignore the basic truth,” he said, “that some of the planners and politicians behind those projects built them directly through the heart of vibrant populated communities, sometimes in an effort to reinforce segregation, sometimes because the people there had less power to resist, and sometimes as part of a direct effort to replace or eliminate black neighborhoods.”

He said communities could start applying for the funding right away and would be able to benefit in many different ways.

“Sometimes that will help move a project from a drafting table to shovels in the ground,” he explained. “Sometimes it will help communities develop proposals that can then go on to get other sources of funding, like state dollars or our federal raise grants.”

Buttigieg asserted that this would help correct some of the wrongs of the past.

“This is not an exercise in blame or guilt,” he argued. “It is a reckoning with simple realities and an insistence that the future will be better than the past. Recognizing where taxpayer dollars isolated people or caused damage, and using new resources to fix it, that’s not divisive. What’s divisive is a highway or railway or interchange that is dividing people from where they need to be in their community and fixing it will make a whole community better off.”

Mayor Woodfin thanked the Biden administration for their “commitment to our cities, as well as allowing us to create smoother paths for all of our residents.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” Weekdays 9-11am on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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