USDOT awards Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program grants

March 3, 2023
In the program’s inaugural award round, $185 million was awarded to 45 projects.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded grants through its Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which is a first-of-its kind initiative to reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.

"Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We are proud to announce the first grantees of our Reconnecting Communities Program, which will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries and other essentials.”

The inaugural round of grants awarded $185 million to 45 projects that will connect neighborhoods back together by removing, retrofitting or mitigating transportation barriers. Among the grant recipients are 13 transit related projects, including two that were awarded capital construction grants and 11 that received planning grants.

The transit related grants include:

  • New Jersey Transit received a $13.2 million capital construction grant award for its Long Branch Station Pedestrian Tunnel New Jersey Transit Corporation that will remove an at-grade rail crossing and construct a pedestrian tunnel at Long Branch Station to provide access from multiple directions to the station and eliminate a problematic crossing for passengers and pedestrians.
  • The city of Kalamazoo, Mich., received a $12.3 million capital construction grant for the City of Kalamazoo: Reconnecting Communities Pilot Project for Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues project that will upgrade Kalamazoo and Michigan Avenues with traffic calming measures and pedestrian, bicycle, and transit improvements.
  • The city of San Jose, Calif., received a $2 million planning grant for the Monterey Road Highway to Grand Boulevard Design Study that will assess the feasibility and conceptual designs for converting Monterey Road from a motor highway to a grand boulevard that is expected to include dedicated transit lanes, protected bike lanes and urban greening.
  • Puerto Rico Highway and Transit Authority received a $1.57 million planning grant for the Reconnecting Santurce project that intends to assess the mobility impacts of PR-26's construction, then to co-design access strategies that promote socioeconomic development, urban revitalization, and public participation for the communities in question.
  • The city of Austin, Texas, received a $1.12 million planning grant for the Our Future 35: Connecting Austin Equitably - Mobility Study that will evaluate critical transportation, public health, equitable development, and environmental justice outcomes in the city. The group has already coordinated with the local transit authority to include transit route studies to provide equitable access to the historically disadvantaged communities and mentions multimodal mobility options to communities adjacent to I-35 that are a key component of the study.
  • The city of Kansas City, Mo., received a $1.06 million grant for its Reconnecting Kansas City: Repairing Connections for Kansas City's Westside Neighborhood, will develop a comprehensive plan to increase mobility and connectivity, repair the community and redress inequities and barriers to opportunity throughout the Westside of Kansas City.
  • The city of Wichita, Kan., received a $1 million planning grant for the city’s 21st Street Corridor project, which intends to introduce an east-west transit line, sidewalks, bike/pedestrian pathways, solutions for persons with disabilities and safe accommodation for all users.
  • The West Virginia Dept. of Transportation / Division of Highways will receive a $1 million planning grant for the Reconnecting Bluefield project. The funds will be used to support a planning study and preliminary engineering analysis to develop the Preliminary Plans and Environmental Documentation for the future development of a "T" shaped corridor that would expand and enhance access and transit between the East End, downtown Bluefield, and local amenities.
  • The city of Birmingham, Ala., received an $800,000 planning grant for the Birmingham Transportation Capital Investment Plan that will advance data-driven transportation recommendations in the nine Imagine Birmingham plans and other relevant assessments to mitigate the negative impact of interstates, railroads, and major arterial roadways.
  • The California Department of Transportation received a $680,000 planning grant for the Vision 980 Study Phase 2 - Feasibility Study that will explore alternatives for reconnecting communities along the I-980 corridor with an expanded focus on community integration and environmental justice. The project aims to improve accommodation of non-motorized modes, access to transit and other goals.
  • The city of Houston, Texas, will receive a $552,160 planning grant for the Reconnecting Communities: Gulfton and Beyond project that aims to address the challenges posed by legacy infrastructure in Gulfton that make multimodal transportation very difficult. Gulfton is Houston’s most dense, diverse and transit-dependent neighborhood.
  • The city of Syracuse, NY, received a $500,000 planning grant for the Reconnecting a Post I-81 Viaduct Syracuse project, which will study the most effective methods to reconnect the project area, with considerations for pedestrian, bicycle and public transportation/Bus Rapid Transit pathways.
  • The Region 1 Planning Council in Rockford, Ill., received a $375,031 planning grant for the SW Rail Yards Planning Project that will evaluate the feasibility of removing and repurposing eligible rail tracks and yards, as well as the configuration of additional right of ways for alternative uses and mixed-use development, including development opportunities around a new passenger rail station along the existing Canadian National tracks.

USDOT is establishing the Reconnecting Communities Institute to provide technical assistance to build organizational and community capacity available to grant recipients and other eligible entities interested in reconnecting communities. USDOT says it will prioritize recipients serving economically disadvantaged communities for technical assistance.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.