Buttigieg Starts $1 Billion ‘First-Of-Its-Kind’ Anti-Racist Roads Project

REUTERS/Yves Herman

Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg launched a $1 billion project on Thursday to fix America’s racist infrastructure system.

Buttigieg launched the Reconnecting Communities program, a “first-of-its-kind” anti-racist infrastructure project aimed at rebuilding communities that were “racially segregated or divided by road projects,” reported the Associated Press.

The program gives states financial support for five years from the project’s $1 billion budget to help reconnect primarily low-income, African-American communities negatively affected by the massive 1950s expansion of the interstate highway system, reported the AP.

“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,” Buttigieg said in Birmingham, Alabama, on Thursday, according to the outlet.

“We can’t ignore the basic truth: that some of the planners and politicians behind those projects built them directly through the heart of vibrant populated communities,” Buttigieg continued, according to the AP. “Sometimes as an effort to reinforce segregation. Sometimes because the people there have less power to resist. And sometimes as part of a direct effort to replace or eliminate Black neighborhoods.”

President Joe Biden submitted proposals in the American Jobs Plan in 2021 that included $20 billion to “reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.”

Advocacy groups warned that the program’s $1 billion funding wouldn’t be enough to handle the over 50 citizen-led, nationwide efforts to rectify the roadways, reported the AP. (RELATED: Democrats Want To Tear Down Highways … To Solve Historic Racism?)

Cities like Portland, Oregon; St. Paul, Minnesota; Tampa, Florida; Syracuse, New York; Houston and New Orleans are hoping to receive money to remove their problematic highways and rail lines, and build new ones that reconnect disadvantaged neighborhoods, the AP reported.

Freeway Fighters Network coordinator Ben Crowther praised the Biden administration’s move to bring the “fringe idea” that building roads can be a form of racism into the front of progressive city planning.

“Prior to 2021, the idea that we would deal with highway infrastructure that has divided communities was very much a fringe idea,” Crowther said. “The Biden administration has really transformed that into mainstream thinking. We are thinking now this is something that is possible — that you can remove a highway and instead build safe streets that are walkable, add housing and address other community needs besides travel time.”

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mocked the idea that roads or the planning for building roads could result from racism in Nov. 2021, reported Florida Politics.

“I heard some stuff, some weird stuff from the Secretary of Transportation trying to make this about social issues,” DeSantis said, according to the outlet. “To me, a road’s a road.”