Nov 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Buttigieg: Infrastructure bill to address racist highway design

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks during the daily briefing at the White House on November 08
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg during a briefing at the White House on Monday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Monday that his agency would use a portion of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill to address racial inequities in U.S. highway design.

Why it matters: Buttigieg's remarks at a press briefing come amid a broader discussion of racial and socioeconomic disparities in the U.S. and days after Congress passed the long-awaited infrastructure bill.

  • The program, called "Reconnecting Communities," will focus on the "legacy of highway construction built through communities" and remove or repurpose infrastructure barriers.
  • Buttigieg reiterated that whether a highway will be removed will be decided on a case-by-case basis, adding that "it's going to vary by community and we have to listen to the community."

What they're saying: "[A]t least 40% of the clean investments in this bill will go to benefit the communities that are overburdened and underserved," Buttigieg said at the briefing.

  • "If an underpass was constructed such that a bus carrying mostly Black and Puerto Rican kids to a beach ... in New York was designed too low for it to pass by, that ... obviously reflects racism that went into those design choices."
  • "I don't think we have anything to lose by confronting that simple reality and I think we have everything to gain by acknowledging it," he added.
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