The city of Norfolk’s neighborhoods will soon be more connected than ever thanks to a $1.6 million award from the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, which aims to reconnect and restore communities that have historically been negatively impacted by past infrastructure decisions.
This funding was made possible by President Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and Norfolk is one of 45 cities across the United States that are receiving grants through the program.
Funds for Norfolk’s “I-264 Reconnecting Communities” project will be used to plan for a solution to the “spaghetti bowl” that is the “14-lane jumble of ramps and interchanges that cut low-income and vast majority Black neighborhoods off from the core downtown area,” according to the U.S Dept. of Transportation (DOT).
The DOT states that this study will look at various reconfigurations of the area to determine the correct approach to fixing the issue of communities of color being cut off from the resources the downtown area provides; these communities include the St. Paul’s section of Norfolk, the Elizabeth River waterfront, and the historically Black Norfolk State University neighborhoods.
According to the DOT, these neighborhoods “bore the brunt of impacts from past infrastructure projects,”-–particularly from the massive segment of the 14-lane wide interstate—and are cut off from public housing communities, job centers, educational hubs, food markets, transportation resources, and more.
These sorts of discriminatory policies and practices have led Black people to be more likely to live in poverty, face unemployment, and experience hunger. In 2021, nearly 20% of Black Americans lived in a food insecure household, which, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, is a household that is unable to acquire adequate food either because of insufficient funds or lack of resources.
The I-264 Reconnecting Communities project aims to address these issues.
“Transportation should connect, not divide, people and communities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg stated earlier this year when the Norfolk project was announced. “[the] Reconnecting Communities Program…will unite neighborhoods, ensure the future is better than the past, and provide Americans with better access to jobs, health care, groceries, and other essentials.”
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