U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other senior leaders from USDOT joined U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, and other local leaders in Birmingham, Ala., to announce USDOT is now accepting applications for the first-of-its-kind Reconnecting Communities pilot program.
Birmingham will soon launch Birmingham Xpress, a new bus rapid transit service that will connect Alabamans in 25 communities to jobs, schools and healthcare.
Created in the president’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, funding from the $1 billion pilot program will help reconnect communities that were previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure. Reconnecting a community could mean adapting existing infrastructure– such as building a pedestrian walkway over or under an existing highway– to better connect neighborhoods to opportunities or better means of access such as crosswalks and redesigned intersections.
"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," said Buttigieg. "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."
USDOT will also be launching the Thriving Communities Initiative to provide technical assistance and hands-on planning support for transformative infrastructure projects that serve disadvantaged communities. This includes a new DOT Navigator to provide better access to technical assistance programs across the department, and a new program to provide capacity building support to communities.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing complementary technical assistance as part of the Thriving Communities program to improve the coordination of housing and transportation planning to advance residents’ access to opportunity and increase housing supply. USDOT and HUD plan to issue their notices of funding availability in the Fall to select capacity builders.
While the Reconnecting Communities pilot program is the first-ever federal program to have funding dedicated solely to reconnection efforts, other USDOT discretionary grant programs, including the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, have funded projects such as interstate capping in Atlanta, a greenway project in St. Louis and a bus rapid transit line in Baltimore – all examples of connecting neighborhoods with job opportunities in a city where transportation infrastructure previously acted as a barrier. States are also encouraged to use their formula funds to help finance reconnection projects.
The Reconnecting Communities pilot program may help support planning efforts that advance projects to a phase where they are more competitive for these other sources of capital funding.
Eligible applicants for the Reconnecting Communities competitive grant pilot program include:
- Local and Tribal governments
- Metropolitan planning organizations
- Nonprofit organizations
- Other transportation facility owners
Preference will be given to applications from economically disadvantaged communities, especially those with projects that are focused on equity and environmental justice, have strong community engagement and stewardship, and a commitment to shared prosperity and equitable development. Of the $195 million available from the grant program this year, $50 million is dedicated to planning activities for communities that may be earlier in the process.
Information on Reconnecting Communities technical assistance and other resources can be found online. Applications are due Oct.13, 2022. Awards are expected to be announced in early 2023. The new DOT Navigator can be accessed online and information on the Thriving Communities program can also be found online.
The department will convene a series of stakeholder webinars to help potential applicants learn about the RCP grant program and what they need to know to prepare an application. The first one will be held July 14 at 12:00 pm EST.