Today, Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05) applauded the Department of Transportation (DOT) for opening funding for the Reconnecting Communities pilot program. The Reconnecting Neighborhoods pilot program is based on legislation written by Congresswoman Williams.
Congresswoman Williams, a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said:
“The Reconnecting Communities pilot program is a long overdue matter of racial justice. The 1956 Federal Aid Highway Act built highways through the middle of cities, at times to intentionally displace Black families. This left economic devastation that still exists. Two examples of these disenfranchising projects are in the Fifth District: the Sweet Auburn and Summerhill communities were both divided by the construction of the Downtown Connector and I-20. There is a direct line between the decision on where to build the highway and today’s racial wealth gap. I applaud the Department of Transportation for opening funding for the Reconnecting Communities pilot program as we reckon with our past and uplift impacted communities.”
Created in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, funding from the $1 billion pilot program will help reconnect communities that were previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure. Reconnecting a community could mean adapting existing infrastructure– such as building a pedestrian walkway over or under an existing highway– to better connect neighborhoods to opportunities or better means of access such as crosswalks and redesigned intersections.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said:
“Transportation can connect us to jobs, services, and loved ones, but we‘ve also seen countless cases around the country where a piece of infrastructure cuts off a neighborhood or a community because of how it was built. Using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are proud to announce the launch of Reconnecting Communities: the first-ever dedicated federal initiative to unify neighborhoods living with the impacts of past infrastructure choices that divided them.”
USDOT will also be launching the Thriving Communities Initiative to provide technical assistance and hands-on planning support for transformative infrastructure projects that serve disadvantaged communities. This includes a new DOT Navigator to provide better access to technical assistance programs across the Department, and a new program to provide capacity building support to communities. U.S. Housing and Urban Development is providing complementary technical assistance as part of the Thriving Communities program to improve the coordination of housing and transportation planning to advance residents’ access to opportunity and increase housing supply. USDOT and HUD plan to issue their notices of funding availability in the Fall to select capacity builders.
While the Reconnecting Communities pilot program is the first-ever Federal program to have funding dedicated solely to reconnection efforts, other USDOT discretionary grant programs, including the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, have funded projects such as interstate capping in Atlanta, a greenway project in St. Louis, and a Bus Rapid Transit line in Baltimore – all examples of connecting neighborhoods with job opportunities in a city where transportation infrastructure previously acted as a barrier. States are also encouraged to use their formula funds to help finance reconnection projects.
The Reconnecting Communities pilot program may help support planning efforts that advance projects to a phase where they are more competitive for these other sources of capital funding.
Eligible applicants for the Reconnecting Communities competitive grant pilot program include:
- Local and Tribal governments
- Metropolitan planning organizations
- Nonprofit organizations
- Other transportation facility owners
Preference will be given to applications from economically disadvantaged communities, especially those with projects that are focused on equity and environmental justice, have strong community engagement and stewardship, and a commitment to shared prosperity and equitable development. Of the $195 million available from the grant program this year, $50 million is dedicated to planning activities for communities that may be earlier in the process.
The Reconnecting Communities Notice of Funding Opportunity announced today can be found here. Information on Reconnecting Communities technical assistance and other resources can be found here. Applications are due October 13, 2022. Awards are expected to be announced in early 2023. The new DOT Navigator can be accessed here and information on the Thriving Communities program can be found here.
The Department will convene a series of stakeholder webinars to help potential applicants learn about the RCP grant program and what they need to know to prepare an application. The first one will be held Thursday, July 14 at 12 pm EST.
Congresswoman Nikema Williams proudly serves Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. Congresswoman Williams serves on the exclusive Financial Services Committee where she is Vice Chair of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Select Committee for the Modernization of Congress. She is Freshman Class President and Co-Chairs the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. Congresswoman Williams builds on the Fifth District’s legacy as the cradle of the civil rights movement as a champion of voting rights, closing the racial wealth gap, and ensuring the promise of America for all–regardless of their ZIP code or bank account.