Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced a $1 billion pilot program aimed at reconnecting communities that were previously cut off from economic opportunities by transportation infrastructure.
Created under President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the department said that reconnecting a community could entail adapting existing infrastructure or devising better means of access.
For example, the city of Birmingham, Alabama, will soon launch a new bus rapid transit service called Birmingham Xpress.
"Transportation can connect us to jobs, services and loved ones, but we‘ve also seen countless cases around the country where a piece of infrastructure cuts off a neighborhood or a community because of how it was built," Buttigieg said in a release. "Using funds from President Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are proud to announce the launch of Reconnecting Communities: the first-ever dedicated federal initiative to unify neighborhoods living with the impacts of past infrastructure choices that divided them."
Cities and states can apply for the federal aid over five years and preference will be given to applications from economically disadvantaged communities.
Department of Transportation grant programs have previously funded projects connecting neighborhoods with job opportunities, and it said that the Reconnecting Communities pilot program may help support planning efforts that "advance projects to a phase where they are more competitive for …other sources of capital funding."
Of the $195 million available from the grant program this year, $50 million is being dedicated to planning activities for communities that may be earlier in the process.
Applications for the Reconnecting Communities program are due on Oct. 13, 2022, with awards expected to be announced early next year.
The department will also launch the Thriving Communities Initiative, providing technical assistance and "hands-on planning support" for infrastructure projects serving disadvantaged communities.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is providing complementary technical assistance as part of that program.
HUD and the Transportation Department will issue their notices of funding availability in the fall.
The grants are considerably less than the $20 billion Biden initially envisioned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.