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Brown, Mfume, Blunt Rochester and Evans Introduce Legislation to Reconnect Communities Left Divided By Highway Construction

With Congress beginning work on a transformational infrastructure plan, equity must be central to these efforts

This legislation establishes a grant program at the Department of Transportation to help communities identify and remove or remediate infrastructural barriers that create obstacles to mobility or economic development, or expose the community to air pollution or other health and safety risks. Grants can be utilized for community education, engagement, transportation and development planning as well as capital construction projects.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) introduced legislation that would reconnect communities divided by highway construction by funding the removal and retrofitting of historic infrastructure barriers. Joining Congressman Brown as co-leads in this effort are Reps. Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) and Dwight Evans (PA-03). There is companion legislation in the Senate.

As our country built the interstate highway system, some communities were unacceptably left behind and divided. These communities were disproportionately low income neighborhoods and communities of color. As overpasses and infrastructure barriers were erected, residents saw mobility and economic development decrease, while air pollution and other safety hazards increased.

With Congress beginning work on a transformational infrastructure plan, equity must be central to these efforts. This bill would target projects like the Baltimore “Highway to Nowhere” which destroyed homes and has divided West Baltimore for decades. This legislation would provide the resources needed to begin to reconnect these neighborhoods. 

“We have an opportunity to transform our infrastructure and invest in the transportation future of every community, with equity and justice at the forefront of our efforts. Communities of color have been chronically underinvested in and deliberately harmed by exclusionary infrastructure and transportation policies,” said Congressman Brown. “We cannot leave anyone behind in our recovery. Infrastructure provides job and development opportunities and impacts the health and wellbeing of residents. By reconnecting communities and correcting the mistakes of the past, we will begin to build more inclusive infrastructure for every American.”

This legislation establishes a grant program at the Department of Transportation to help communities identify and remove or remediate infrastructural barriers that create obstacles to mobility or economic development, or expose the community to air pollution or other health and safety risks. Grants can be utilized for community education, engagement, transportation and development planning as well as capital construction projects.

“This is bold legislation that addresses too many wrongs in too many places across America, including with Baltimore’s ‘Highway to Nowhere’ in my District. We seek to empower and connect communities to one another with this bill,” said Congressman Mfume. “We also seek to connect communities to economic opportunities, more academic possibilities, arts and entertainment, healthy food options, inviting open-space options, and so much more,” said Congressman Mfume. “It’s never too late to undo the wrongs of the past.”

“My family moved to the City of Wilmington just a few years after the construction of I-95 split the city in half. The construction of the highway demolished homes, businesses, and churches and left thriving neighborhoods irrevocably changed,” said Congresswoman Blunt Rochester. “As we work with the Biden-Harris Administration to make critical investments in our infrastructure and build back better, we have an historic opportunity to help reconnect those neighborhoods that were torn apart, build useful and practical new public spaces, and create economic opportunity and wealth in those communities that were most impacted. I want to thank my good friend, Congressman Anthony Brown for his leadership in this critical effort.”

“My congressional district has been ravaged by the destructive impact of vehicle-first policies that allowed three superhighways to cut through the hearts of neighborhoods like Nicetown and Chinatown. It’s time for this to come to an end and for Washington to help provide solutions. In Philadelphia and across the nation, we have seen what happens when pavement comes before people, when cars come before communities,” said Congressman Evans. “I thank Congressman Brown for taking the lead in the House, along with our Senate partners on this important legislation. I believe that the Reconnecting Communities Act is an important part of Building Back Better.”

Similar legislation has already been introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

“For far too long, components of our public infrastructure have divided neighborhoods – scarring cities and isolating communities of color. We need to change course and invest in building infrastructure that brings residents together and expands economic opportunity for all,” said Senator Van Hollen. “That’s why last Congress, I proposed a pilot program to help tackle this issue by funding projects that will help overcome this harmful legacy and transform and revitalize divided neighborhoods. I’m glad to see both the House and Senate expand on this program this year. From Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere to abandoned infrastructure across America, tackling this issue is a high priority, and we will keep working to get this passed.”

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