Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has launched a $1 billion project, the Reconnecting Communities program, to undo the alleged negative effects that “racist roads” have engendered on poor black communities.
“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 a statement Thursday.
“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.”
We’re proud to launch Reconnecting Communities: the first-ever dedicated federal initiative to fund transportation connections for places disconnected or damaged by the transportation policies of the past. https://t.co/ffiWMdfhIS pic.twitter.com/hLb7G4iDD5
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) June 30, 2022
The program will specifically allow communities to collect grant money and then use that money to radically restructure the infrastructure around them.
“Under the Reconnecting Communities program, cities and states can now apply for … federal aid over five years to rectify harm caused by roadways that were built primarily through lower-income, Black communities after the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system,” the Associated Press reported Thursday.
“New projects could include rapid bus transit lines to link disadvantaged neighborhoods to jobs; caps built on top of highways featuring green spaces, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways to allow for safe crossings over the roadways; repurposing former rail lines; and partial removal of highways.”
The program is based mainly on the belief that the highway boom of the 1950s and 1960s destroyed black neighborhoods across the nation.
Pete Buttigieg hones in on ‘racist’ bridges and roadways with an assist from April Ryan – https://t.co/PtKrU0JIJg
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) November 9, 2021
This belief is not necessarily unfounded.
“Highways radically reshaped cities, destroying dense downtown neighborhoods, dividing many Black communities and increasing car dependence,” according to The New York Times.
The Federal Highway Administration reports the same: “[T]he reconfiguration of transportation to favor highways over transit was harmful to transit-dependent minority communities, contributing to high rates of unemployment and civil unrest among the African-American population.”
“While the broader issues of urban redevelopment continued to be a major component of the highway debates, this angry battle cry put highway officials in the difficult position of defending what was increasingly perceived as racist highway policies,” according to the FHWA.
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Decades later, the Biden administration is seeking to “repair the damage.” While some of the ideas like rapid bus transit lines may have merit, critics say, allowing minority communities to essentially remove highways on a whim is not one of them. Why? For a number of reasons.
For one, the damage has already been done, so why remove these highways instead of helping communities better adapt to them? And this of course is assuming that the effected communities haven’t already adapted.
Knock down perfectly good highways for what now?
— Biden farts dust (@Elizabethdfdof) June 30, 2022
Furthermore, all American communities are currently dealing with skyrocketing inflation, exorbitant gas prices, unaffordable housing, and a slew of other problems.
So why, critics ask, worry about “racist highways” when clearly the American people are facing far more pressing problems?
American families have to chose between food and gas for their cars + unaffordable housing and you are promoting $1 billion for infrastructure “connection”? Susan, the Administration is disconnected. Do better!
— African American Juvenile Justice Project (@JeffersonandCo) June 30, 2022
Can we address the gas prices…the container gridlock…the starving babies…the bare grocery shelves ad soaring prices… pic.twitter.com/FAzxwHgGY6
— Maggie (@jumpb4ulook) June 30, 2022
And with that in mind, some critics also wonder whether anyone’s even asking for this. In fact, some have speculated that removing highways might very well further exacerbate certain communities’ transportation problems.
I’m sure all the minorities are just dying to sit in ridiculous traffic for the next decade just to re-route a highway a few miles over. NOBODY IS ASKING FOR THIS
— WrongSideOfHistory (@cryptoknight45) June 30, 2022
Critics have also accused Buttigieg himself of being “woke” and “out of touch.”
This man is just one more example of the woke community, serving our country, who is so out of touch with America and the American people you have to wonder, how big is his bubble. This attitude does so much to continue to divide our country.
— Red Bird 72 (@RedBird725) June 30, 2022
Buttigieg started complaining about “racist roads” last year.
“If an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach, […] in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that that obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” he said in November.
The remarks prompted fierce criticism from Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“Roads can’t be racist, you can’t build racism into a road. Roads are made of sand and gravel and asphalt, ask any road builder. Roads cannot be racist any more than toasters or sectional couches can be racist, they are inanimate objects, they’re not alive. That seems obvious but apparently, Pete Buttigieg didn’t know it, maybe he did know it but he was afraid to say it,” Carlson said.
Inanimate objects, like roads, can’t be racist. That seems obvious, though apparently Pete Buttigieg doesn’t know this. pic.twitter.com/XabGgEa8jx
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) November 9, 2021
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