‘Reconnecting Communities’ Could Fund Highway Expansions

Applications to the program reveal a pattern of state agencies requesting funds for projects that perpetuate car-centric development with only nominal equity components.

Read Time: 1 minute

November 6, 2022, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Claiborne Ave expressway passing over Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans

New Orleans plans to 'beautify' underpasses under the Claiborne Expressway while keeping the roadway in place. | William A. Morgan / Clairborne Avenue Expressway, New Orleans

A new federal program aimed at ‘Reconnecting Communities’ divided and displaced by freeway construction could backfire, a coalition of community advocates warns. As Kea Wilson explains in Streetsblog, the group is concerned that the expansion of the range of projects that could be funded by Reconnecting Communities could dilute the program’s goals and perpetuate auto-centric development rather than mitigating and reversing the damage caused by freeways and urban renewal projects.

According to an open letter from the coalition to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, “The Reconnecting Communities program has the power to remedy the injustices of our previous infrastructure investments and recalibrate our transportation priorities so that they support underserved communities, but it is too small to spend any of its funding on projects that might come at their expense.”

Wilson describes several projects that would even expand highways using Reconnecting Communities funds, quoting Ben Crowther, advocacy manager for America Walks, who commented that the number of applications that perpetuate highway-building point to “a pattern of behavior” that uses “equity-washing” to maintain the status quo.  Crowther says the small scale of the program so far means USDOT must act selectively to fund projects that are “truly reparative.”

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