Biden administration to spend $1 billion on combatting ‘racist highways’

by mcardinal

Lauren C. Moye, FISM News

The Biden administration is prepared to spend $1 billion over the next five years to combat “racist highways,” even while a growing number of Americans are concerned that excessive government spending will undermine U.S. National Security.

One purpose of the 2021 American Jobs Act was to “redress historic inequities” in the American transportation infrastructure, according to the White House fact sheet. Now, $1 billion will be spent over the next five years to remove racist highways that critics claim unfairly divide or segregate impoverished communities under the “Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.”

“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 first round of grants was recently announced, resulting in $185 million to be spent on 45 projects this year.

One project that will see Buffalo, New York banish a six-lane expressway underground by capping it with a tunnel has a huge chunk of this money by itself. The project received a $55.6 million grant.

Other projects include things like repairing a plaza over top of a highway in a Detroit, Michigan suburb and planning a park over top of a highway in Boston, Massachusetts.

Government infrastructure projects have always been a source of controversy for the people they most impact. Critics of highway projects, however, have accused that the 1956 U.S. Interstate System created under President Eisenhower allowed for segregation.

“Transportation infrastructure should help people get where they need to be, but, too often in our nation’s history, transportation infrastructure has done the opposite by dividing neighborhoods and cutting off communities from opportunity,” the Department of Transportation (DOT) stated.

DOT says that highways and rail lines act as physical barriers that limit a resident’s social and economic opportunities and most impact “communities of color.”

While projects vary in type and purpose, the emphasis is usually on creating easier commuting by either providing new ramps to the freeways or by improving the safety of walking and bicycle paths to increase a community’s accessibility.

Demand for the program was high with 435 applications seeking a total of $2 billion. While the program is commendable with both Republican and Democrat states seeking grant money, concerns about excessive federal government spending are rising.

Global unrest during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, further unsettled by tension with China, has impacted American views of the national budget, a recent TIPP poll revealed. 63% of all poll respondents believe that excessive federal spending undermines U.S. National Security.

This includes 45% of Republicans and 28% of Democrats who strongly agree with the statement, showing there is a decreasing partisan gap on the issue.

Specifically, 59% of all voters believe that excessive non-defense spending will undermine America’s ability to counter China.

In addition, critics of the program note that the grant money designated for reconnecting highways is paltry in comparison to billions that will be spent on highway expansion projects in the coming years.

The grants also come at a time when the DOT is under increasing criticism for train derailments and near-disasters on airport runways.