RICHMOND, Va. — Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward neighborhood touting the funds that may come to the neighborhood through the Infrastructure Law.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney led Sec. Buttigieg, Sen. Tim Kaine, Gov. Ralph Northam, Rep. Abigail Spanberger, and Rep. Donald McEachin through Jackson Ward starting with the Black History Museum on Leigh Street.
The group stopped at the Bill “Bojangles” Robinson Statue and ended at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.
Along the way, city officials pointed out where a major highway essentially cut in half the historic neighborhood that was once a thriving community for the city’s Black population.
The community was established 150 years ago as a center for Black commerce and culture. However, Jackson Ward was later disconnected by a turnpike and later Interstate 95.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that President Joe Biden signed in November includes the first-ever dedicated federal funds to reconnect communities that were divided by transportation planning decades ago, according to a press release.
“To think this neighborhood was once vibrant and coming back by the way — an interstate was built through the middle of it,” Northam explained. “That’s really something we should all as Americans and Virginians should find unacceptable.”
Buttigieg said transportation should always be about connecting and never about dividing, like what happened in Jackson Ward.
“What you see in Jackson Ward is how transportation dollars sometimes serve to disconnect and we have a chance to do something about that. It’s what the reconnecting communities' program is all about,” he stated.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Reconnecting Communities program, which supports the Biden Administration’s commitment to equity, is a $1 billion competitive grant program that provides federal funding for state and local projects to reconnect neighborhoods across the country, the press release read.
The tour ended in Henrico County’s West End at a Glen Allen construction site. Sec. Buttigieg was showed where Woodman Road will connect Virginia Center Commons, the GreenCity project, and the new Fall Line Trail.
Rep. Spanberger detailed the funds that would be coming to Virginia.
$7 billion were allocated to the Commonwealth for highway repairs, $738 million to improve pipes and water infrastructure, more than a half billion dollars for bridges, $100 million to expand high-speed broadband internet access, $1.2 billion to improve public transit, and $106 million to support the expansion of an electric vehicle charging network.