- The U.S. Department of Transportation is now taking applications for the Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Program, which combines two existing programs to create a more streamlined process for communities to apply, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced last week.
- More than $3.35 billion will be available in this funding round for community-led projects to address the impacts of transportation infrastructure, such as train tracks or highways, and other barriers to community mobility.
- The DOT also said it is partnering with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on “technical assistance efforts to plan and build infrastructure that reconnects and improves access, especially for marginalized communities.”
The 2021 infrastructure law created the Reconnecting Communities pilot program to help restore communities previously cut off by transportation infrastructure. In 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act established the Neighborhood Access and Equity Program for projects that improve walkability, safety and affordable transportation, with a focus on disadvantaged or underserved communities.
“By combining these two grant programs into a single application, we are making it easier for communities to seek and receive the funding they need to build better, safer, inclusive infrastructure for the future,” Buttigieg said in a press release.
A total of $3.155 billion will be available from the Neighborhood Access and Equity Program, consisting of $135 million for community planning grants, $2.57 billion for capital construction grants and $450 million for regional partnerships challenge grants. These partnerships must “clearly demonstrate regional coordination and leveraging of local, State, and Federal resources and policies,” according to the DOT.
$198 million will be available through the Reconnecting Communities pilot program, consisting of $148 million for capital construction grants and $50 million for community planning grants, including funding for technical assistance.
The first round of grant awards for the Reconnecting Communities pilot program, announced in March, provided $185 million to 45 projects: 39 planning grants and six capital construction grants.
One of the first projects to get underway, after receiving a planning award of $1.8 million, is in Philadelphia. The city aims to reconnect the divided Chinatown community by decking over a portion of Interstate 676 with parks, open spaces and commercial or residential development.
A May U.S. Government Accountability Office report found fault with the Reconnecting Communities program, however, citing a lack of measurable objectives, methods to assess data and evaluate plans and ways to share lessons learned to inform future decisions. The GAO made three recommendations to address these issues, which the DOT agreed with in a response letter.