Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday that his agency will use about $1 billion from President Joe Biden’s public works legislation to remedy racial inequities in U.S. highway design, such as roads that were built to separate predominantly minority neighborhoods from White communities.
The program, called “Reconnecting Communities,” in some cases will tear down or rebuild highways and overpasses, he said. Federal officials will consider local desires as they identify projects, he said at a White House briefing.
“It’s going to vary by community and we have to listen to the community,” Buttigieg said. “Sometimes it really is the case that an overpass went in a certain way that is so harmful that it’s got to come down or maybe be put underground. Other times maybe it’s not that way. Maybe the really important thing is to connect across, to add rather than subtract.”
Buttigieg described highways dividing neighborhoods and an underpass deliberately constructed “too low” for “a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach” in New York.
“That obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices,” he said. “I don’t think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality.”