Statement: Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grants to reconnect communities divided by highways

Media Contacts
Laura Davis

Former Transform Transportation, Advocate, PIRG

WASHINGTON The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday $185 million in grants to reconnect communities divided by highways and other transportation infrastructure. This first round of funding through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which was established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will fund 45 projects across the United States. In total, the program is designed to allocate $1 billion over the next five years. Grants are awarded to projects seeking to remove or retrofit highways and other transportation facilities that create barriers to mobility and community.

Since 2014, PIRG has been raising awareness about the negative impacts of investing in highway boondoggle projects, which do little to reduce congestion or improve mobility and instead divert funding from critical infrastructure repairs and sustainable transportation alternatives. The Reconnecting Communities Program is a promising initiative that will mitigate some of the harm caused by past highway boondoggle projects. The program signals a shift toward a more inclusive and sustainable approach to transportation infrastructure development.

The most significant grants awarded in the first round of funding include $30 million to the City of Long Beach, California, to redesign Shoreline Drive and increase access to green space. The largest grant was given to Buffalo, New York, which received $55.6 million to build a tunnel for a six-lane expressway creating a linear park. This project will allow redevelopment atop the highway, restoring local east-west crossings for pedestrians, cyclists, and local traffic.

In addition, New Jersey received a substantial construction grant to improve pedestrian access at Long Branch Station, a commuter rail station serving passengers on the North Jersey Coast Line.

In response, PIRG Transportation Advocate Laura Davis issued the following statement:

“Reconnecting Communities is a response to strong public demand for transportation infrastructure that serves the needs of all road users – not just those behind the wheel of a car.

“As we celebrate the investments that will reconnect some communities through this program, it’s important to remember that vast sums of taxpayer dollars are still being allocated to building and expanding highways that will tear other communities apart.

“We need to invest more of our federal and state dollars in high-quality public transportation and interconnected pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, since these solutions will result in better health outcomes, less traffic congestion and cleaner air for everyone.”

CALPIRG State Director Jenn Engstrom issued the following statement:

“The $30 million Reconnecting Communities grant to reconfigure West Shoreline Drive is a major win for Long Beach residents, public health and the climate. After multiple failed attempts to widen Interstate 710, a project that CALPIRG has advocated against for many years, this investment in multi-modal mobility options is a welcome change. Removing the roadway barrier and creating a separate path for pedestrians and cyclists will improve access to public open space, promote healthier forms of transportation and reduce carbon emissions, ultimately creating a higher quality of life for the community.”

Environment New Jersey State Director Doug O’Malley issued the following statement:

“I’m pleased to see President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is helping to reconnect communities. The $13 million grant to the Shore town of Long Branch will make the lives of NJ Transit rail riders safer and more connected. This rail tunnel is a win for riders and public transit and makes it easier to cross the tracks without putting yourself in danger. The Boss sings about the ‘Tunnel of Love,’ and there’s a lot to love about a tunnel that makes our towns safer.”