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Biden-Harris Administration Announces $234.79 million for Locally-Led Projects That Reconnect Communities in Texas as Part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda

More than 130 communities in 41 states and Washington, DC will benefit from $3.3 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act funding to stitch back communities by capping highways, adding new transit routes, adding sidewalks, bridges, bike lanes and more

Washington – Today, President Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced $234,798,830 for the state of Texas for projects through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity discretionary grant programs as part of President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda. The funding is aimed at reconnecting communities that were cut off by transportation infrastructure decades ago, leaving entire neighborhoods without direct access to opportunity, like schools, jobs, medical offices, and places of worship.

The Biden-Harris Administration is taking historic action to deliver for communities that have been left behind for too long. Thanks to additional funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, this investment is 18 times larger than the investments from the previous year’s standalone Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program.  Both programs are part of the President’s Justice40 Initiative.

“While the purpose of transportation is to connect, in too many communities past infrastructure decisions have served instead to divide. Now the Biden-Harris administration is acting to fix that,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Today we are proud to announce an unprecedented $3.3 billion to help 132 communities deliver better infrastructure that reconnects residents to jobs, health care, and other essentials.”

The Department has created a virtual story that spotlights communities’ stories, the historic context for the program, and the future it seeks through funding the reconnection of communities here.

In this round of funding for the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity program, Texas received six grants. Awarded projects include:

  • $80,000,000 for Bridging Highway Divides for DFW Communities in Dallas-Fort Worth – Bridging Highway Divides for DFW Communities will build four pedestrian caps (though one is an inverted “cap”) through the Dallas-Fort Worth region. Bridging Highway Divides for DFW will result in a collective effort that will reknit communities and reverse the harm that past transportation choices have had on disadvantaged neighborhoods and nonmotorized access. All four highways capped by this project disrupted and displaced local communities, removed historical landmarks and resulted in unequal distribution of resources, leaving one side of the highway more prosperous while the others experienced disinvestment. North Texas highways in many cases were used to intentionally cut off access to daily needs and project will address these historic inequities.
  • $43,438,830 for Complete, Connected, Resilient Communities: Gulfton & Kashmere Gardens Resilient Sidewalks Project in Houston – The project will work to address historic underinvestment and barriers in two Houston neighborhoods by improving sidewalks, drainage, and tree cover, which will work together to create climate-resilient streets that support a multimodal mobility network. These walkability and resiliency improvements would help two of Houston’s most economically disadvantaged communities address mobility and accessibility needs, social equity concerns, and climate vulnerability while acting as a model for future neighborhood investments. This project will allow for the creation of resilient pedestrian networks that enhance mobility and connectivity while alleviating environmental and socio-economic barriers that burden the communities.
  • $2,960,000 for From Barriers to Benefits: Restoring Connections to San Antonio’s Eastside in San Antonio – The project will address the disadvantages created by Interstate Highway 37 through the creation of a study that will incorporate an innovative community planning visioning process along with locally driven design and planning concepts. The pedestrian underpasses connecting to Downtown are visually oppressive and uncomfortable, characterized by bustling vehicular intersections, wide roadways, high traffic volumes and speeds, and poor lighting. Residents and visitors to San Antonio face significant challenges bicycling, walking, and taking transit given the dangerous crossings used to access employment opportunities in the Downtown area. The Study will allow San Antonio to initiate a community visioning process, planning study, and conceptual engineering alternatives analysis to prioritize solutions that remedy historic inequities and fractured connections across I-37 in the heart of the community.
  • $105,200,000 for Our Future 35: Reconnecting East Austin to the Downtown Core in Austin – The Our Future 35 Cap and Stitch Program is a community-centered initiative to create public spaces and amenities through the design and construction of caps and stitches along eight miles of the I-35 corridor in Austin. As the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) prepares to widen and lower portions of the Austin I-35 corridor, the City has an opportunity to change the landscape of Central Austin through the construction of “caps” and “stitches” that will make important strides toward unifying and mending the divide created by the original construction of I-35 and replacing it with amenities that celebrate and connect all Austinites. This capital grant will reconnect Austin’s East César Chávez neighborhood, the cultural center of Austin’s Mexican American community, to the heart of downtown and all its economic, educational, and institutional opportunities. The new César Chávez cap will not only help to bridge the physical gap created by the original construction of I-35, but will help the city’s community bridge the economic, cultural, and social divides that the freeway has historically represented in Austin.
  • $2,000,000 for Paso del Norte and Stanton International Bridges Feasibility Study in El Paso – The proposal aims to investigate the feasibility of meeting the dual needs of the community and commuters crossing the border by building active transportation and improving operational efficiency to decrease environmental pollutants so community members can access their daily destinations while improving their economic and health outcomes, and improving the operational efficiency of individuals crossing the border. These needs will be met through multiple infrastructure and amenity upgrades including well-marked crosswalks, signage, and waiting areas; improving reliable service of existing transit operations; and operational measures including ITS, Dynamic message signs, and adaptive traffic signals that connect to existing projects for port of entry improvements funded by FHWA and the State of Texas. The project’s feasibility study is needed to develop a comprehensive multimodal transportation network inclusive of walking and cycling infrastructure and public transit routes.
  • $1,200,000 for Reconnect Alief Planning Project in Alief – Reconnect Alief is a community-centered effort focused on reconnecting communities along the Westpark Tollway in the socioeconomically disadvantaged community of Alief. The decision to construct the Westpark Tollway through Alief effectively cut off the very diverse and economically disadvantaged community by placing a physical barrier that restricts north and south travel for members of the impacted area. The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) is undertaking an effort to redesign the Westpark Tollway, focusing on adding multimodal infrastructure, public space, and connectivity to major employment centers and METRO’s University Bus Rapid Transit corridor. The planning project will focus on safe accommodation for all users and seamless integration with the surrounding character, context, and land use, considering climate resilience, stormwater, flood risk management, public health, and the economy.

The full list of Reconnecting Communities Pilot and Neighborhood Access and Equity awards can be viewed here.

These programs are part of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. The Department prioritized applications from disadvantaged communities that demonstrated strong community engagement and stewardship to advance equity and environmental justice, and would catalyze shared prosperity project development and job creation.

 

Last year, in the inaugural round of the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, the Biden-Harris administration awarded grants for transformative, community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, and converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined Complete Streets. These projects will help revitalize communities, provide access to jobs and opportunity, and reduce pollution.

 

The Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program (RCP) in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been combined with the newly-established Neighborhood Access and Equity discretionary grant program in the Inflation Reduction Act.

 

This joint application makes it more efficient and accessible than ever for project sponsors to apply for the historic levels of infrastructure funding made available by the Biden-Harris administration’s Investing in America agenda. While Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods grants can come from either program, they share important key characteristics including prioritizing disadvantaged communities — including rural, Tribal and urban communities — and improving access to daily needs and basic services.

 

The Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods program is an important component of the Department’s commitment to equity and the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting communities marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution, and strengthening equitable development. Restoring communities like those awarded grants today helps give everyone an equal chance to get ahead and opportunity to accessing jobs and essential services such as healthcare services, grocery stores, and places of worship. To find out more about what the Department is doing to support equity, see the recently updated Equity Action Plan, which can be viewed here.

 

For more information on the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods, the Reconnecting Communities Pilot and the Neighborhood Access and Equity programs, including additional resources and information for interested applicants and stakeholders, click here.

 

 

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