House Democrats aim to spend $ 4 billion to “reconnect communities” cut off by highways

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The Democratic-led House Transport and Infrastructure Committee’s proposals for the party’s $ 3.5 trillion spending program include $ 4 billion to “reconnect communities” and related projects, in a development that encourages defenders who lobbied to demolish the highways that crossed neighborhoods decades ago.

In the spring, President Joe Biden had proposed spending $ 20 billion to reconnect neighborhoods in his “American Jobs Plan,” but these public works would only get 5% of that amount, or $ 1 billion, in the project. bipartite infrastructure law that was passed by the Senate last month. . Provide an additional $ 4 billion, such as the House committee proposes, would bring that spending to 25% of Biden’s target.

“I’m optimistic, and I really hope they make the right choice here and get that extra $ 4 billion in the program, or added as a separate program – however they have to – just to ensure that these projects have the opportunity to show what they could do for communities, ”said Jordan van der Hagen, landscape designer and founder of the Duluth Waterfront Collective, which seeks to remove a section of Interstate 35 that crosses this Minnesota city.

Van der Hagen was among the supporters of a recent letter to legislators who expressed disappointment at getting $ 1 billion in the bipartisan infrastructure bill rather than $ 20 billion. He told MarketWatch that an additional letter to lawmakers was in the works to encourage them to make the $ 4 billion funding a reality.

Regarding the potential project in Duluth, he said that “connecting our downtown area to our waterfront would be pretty big and would provide a pretty huge return on investment. So there are kind of those two elements – fixing a mistake from the past and also preparing our cities for the future. “

The proposed work involves not only dismantling the freeways but also redevelopment, with ideas for Duluth including a low-speed promenade, new green spaces, and new transportation options. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said the $ 4 billion would go “to support neighborhood equity, safety and access to affordable transportation, including reconnecting communities divided by existing infrastructure barriers.”

Other possible “reconnecting communities” projects can be found across the United States, with one focusing on a “highway to nowhere” in Baltimore, Maryland. The construction of this short stretch of freeway in Maryland’s largest city during the 1970s led to “businesses, churches, families, community networks that were literally torn apart,” Baltimore, John Bullock, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. There have been “disproportionate effects” on black residents, as has happened with projects in other US cities, Bullock added.

Another major redevelopment project targets a section of Interstate 81 in Syracuse, NY, which torn through a black quarter and displaced residents during its construction in the 1950s.

By working to reach an agreement with Senate Republicans on the two-party infrastructure of the $ 1,000 billion PAVE,
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bill, Biden promised not to put items that were explicitly excluded from this measure in the Democrats’ $ 3.5 trillion package. But the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon, said he and other lawmakers did not feel bound by the “double deduction” deal – and is work on ways to get around it.

Biden’s $ 20 billion cut-off neighborhood proposal is similar to a bill introduced in the spring by several Democratic senators known as the Communities Reconnection Act, which requested funding of $ 15 billion.

Some Republican lawmakers have voiced objections to such plans, with GOP Representative Jim Banks of Indiana criticizing efforts to fix ““Racism” on the highwaysin a recent memo. The letter from Banks, chairman of the Republican study committee, also said that the bipartisan infrastructure bill is “not real infrastructure.”

This report was first published on September 23, 2021.


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