The Limitations of ‘Reconnecting Communities’

The Biden administration has pledged to correct the damage imposed on communities by highways and infrastructure, but many projects are only committing to minor improvements, not transformative changes.

1 minute read

May 26, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of 238 freeway in Oakland, California cutting through neighborhood with small houses

The 238 freeway cuts through a neighborhood in Oakland, California. | trekandphoto / 238 Freeway in Oakland, California

Recognizing the impacts of rampant highway construction and other infrastructure on urban neighborhoods and communities of color, the Reconnecting Communities Act and other recently created federal programs aim to redress the damage. Writing in The New York Times, Mark Walker describes the Biden administration’s efforts “to address racial disparities resulting from how the United States built physical infrastructure in past decades.”

As Walker explains, “The Transportation Department has awarded funding to dozens of projects under the goal of reconnecting communities, including $185 million in grants as part of a pilot program created by the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.” But “Once you wreck a community, putting it back together is much more work than just removing an interstate,” says Transportation for America director Beth Osborne.

Walker describes one such effort in Kansas City, where $5 million in federal funding is fueling planning for pedestrian overpasses and transit infrastructure to improve conditions around U.S. Highway 71, which “displaced thousands of residents and cut off predominantly Black neighborhoods from grocery stores, health care and jobs.” The city doesn’t envision removing the highway altogether, but rather adding connections to safely link the neighborhoods on either side.

Thursday, May 25, 2023 in The New York Times

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