Biden Announces $500,000 Grant for Claiborne Project

WASHINGTON, DC – On Feb. 28, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a $500,000 grant for improvements to the Claiborne Overpass through the new Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, an initiative that aims to “reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.”

The elevated roadway above Claiborne Avenue, built in the 1960s, is infamous for damaging a bustling center of economic and cultural activity in one of the city’s historically Black neighborhoods.

The LaDOTD said it will use the $500,000 grant to repurpose a section of the area under the overpass into a cultural amenity that includes safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians, enhanced lighting and more. Future plans include Interstate 10 overpass improvements and on-ramp and off-ramp removal. LaDOTD also plans to return some land to the development of affordable housing and commercial real estate focused on local businesses. 

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This is one of 45 projects receiving $185 million in federal grant awards.

Established by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Reconnecting Communities Program provides technical assistance and funding for communities’ planning and construction projects that aim to connect neighborhoods back together by “removing, retrofitting or mitigating transportation barriers such as highways and railroad tracks.”

“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,” said a Department of Transporation spokesperson. “For example, highways and rail lines can be physical barriers, preventing residents from easy access to social and economic opportunities. This burden is often felt most by communities of color.”

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This first round of grants will fund construction and planning for community-led solutions, including capping interstates with parks, filling in sunken highways to reclaim the land for housing, converting inhospitable transportation facilities to tree-lined Complete Streets, and creating new crossings through public transportation, bridges, tunnels and trails. 

DOT officials say these projects will help revitalize communities, provide access to jobs and opportunity, and reduce pollution.

“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” said 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.”  

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Last week, President Biden issued a new executive order directing agencies to further advance racial equity and support for underserved communities, including through federal actions that strengthen urban equitable development and expand economic opportunity in rural communities.

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 first round of funding for the Reconnecting Communities Program, the Department is awarding 39 Planning Grants and six Capital Construction grants.

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