BIRMINGHAM Ala. (WIAT) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a stop in Birmingham Thursday to promote a new bus transit system as an example of what further infrastructure funding can do to connect communities.
The Birmingham Xpress is set to start running in September, a 15-mile bus route between Five Points West and Woodlawn.
Buttigieg was in the city to support the $20 million project funded through the ‘Reconnecting Communities’ Pilot Program that’s part of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year.
“It’s a major milestone that we have been working on throughout this administration,” Buttigieg said.
The White House says the program will better connect neighborhoods previously cut off from economic opportunity by transportation infrastructure.
“Recognizing where taxpayer dollars isolated people or caused damage, and using new resources to fix it, that’s not divisive. What’s divisive is a highway or railway or interchange that is dividing people from where they need to be in their community and fixing it will make a whole community better off,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg also met with Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin to launch the program.
Sewell says the program will help remedy past policies that separated people.
“It is by no happenstance that our railroads and our byways actually block in our communities of color and those in our underserved communities,” Sewell said.
It’s estimated the bus system would help connect people to 130,000 jobs, as well as UAB and other schools. The pilot program is taking applications from across the country, starting Thursday. Mayor Woodfin says the city will be applying.
“There are so many other projects that are in the queue. What I need to do is get with our team and see where those projects lie in priority and then we will be applying for this. But we are very excited about this Reconnecting Communities Grant for Birmingham,” Woodfin said.
Congresswoman Sewell was the only member of Alabama’s congressional delegation to vote for the infrastructure law.