Senate legislation to reconnect, revitalize communities divided by highways

Bill establishes grant program to help communities retrofit highways that create mobility, opportunity obstacles

April 20, 2021 / 2 minute read
Senate legislation

Democrats on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) this week introduced legislation to reconnect and revitalize areas that the committee says were harmed by the construction of the Interstate Highway System.

The Reconnecting Communities Act would establish a grant program at the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to help communities identify and remove or retrofit highway infrastructure that creates obstacles to mobility and opportunity.

“The development of the Interstate Highway System connected our country in ways it hadn’t been previously, but it also upended neighborhoods and left communities divided, many times over economic and racial lines. In many communities of color, nearby highways continue to represent real barriers for getting around and getting ahead,” EPW Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Delaware) said in a statement. “The Reconnecting Communities Act would empower communities to reverse this unfortunate legacy by building spaces over and around our highways, revitalizing nearby areas as a result. This legislation would help fund projects like a highway cap on I-95 in Wilmington to reconnect cities and open the door on a more equitable and sustainable future.”

The EPW Committee says the legislation aims to address the legacy of highway construction built through communities, especially through low-income communities and communities of color, that divided neighborhoods and erected barriers to mobility and opportunity. This new grant program would fund community engagement and capacity building, as well as planning and construction of projects to remove or retrofit infrastructure barriers like highway overpasses and depressed highways.

This legislation would also help communities identify and remove or remediate infrastructural barriers that expose the community to air pollution or other health and safety risks.

Three categories of grants provided by the legislation include Community Engagement, Education, and Capacity Building Grants; Planning and Feasibility Grants; and Capital Construction Grants.

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SOURCE: Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works

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