WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen gathered with Representatives Kweisi Mfume, Anthony Brown, and John Sarbanes (all D-Md.), Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, and local leaders to discuss the Reconnecting Communities Act, a bill to reform outdated and inequitable infrastructure, like Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere, and help end the legacy of highway construction projects that divide neighborhoods and undermine economic opportunity. The lawmakers also discussed the American Jobs Plan and the historic effort underway to modernize infrastructure, address inequities, drive economic growth, and invest in every community across the country.
“Transportation infrastructure projects can empower and connect communities. Bad infrastructure, like the Franklin-Mulberry corridor, can divide and hurt communities. We must finally correct that ill-conceived decision to plan and then abandon this federal highway project decades ago,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “We have a rare opportunity to reverse past systemic errors that were built into our transportation system. I am proud of Team Maryland for working together to move on such consequential legislation as the Reconnecting Communities Act. Our bill will provide significant resources to places like Baltimore City, helping to navigate and ultimately overcome the barriers that were wrongly built in people’s paths.”
“For decades, Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere has scarred the city, dividing Black neighborhoods and serving as a stark example of the long history of inequity in infrastructure. We must end this division by creating infrastructure that unites and connects communities. That’s why I worked to author a pilot program to help tackle this issue and why I was glad to help introduce this legislation to broaden our investments so our cities can transform divisive and harmful projects into ones that promote economic opportunity. From Baltimore to cities across America, this is a key infrastructure priority, and I’m committed to getting it done,” said Senator Van Hollen.
“I am proud to support the leadership of our congressional delegation as they right the historical wrongs caused by inequitable policy approaches toward transportation and infrastructure,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “Building one America starts at home by building a better Baltimore that eliminates concrete barriers to economic mobility and opportunity. The Reconnecting Communities Act will target projects like West Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere and help eradicate the long legacy of detrimental infrastructure projects that divide neighborhoods and reinforce inequality.”
“I remember growing up here in Baltimore and the once vibrant and connected communities that existed before the ‘Highway to Nowhere,’” said Congressman Kweisi Mfume. “We seek to empower and reconnect communities to one another with this legislation, but we also seek to connect those same communities to economic opportunities, more academic possibilities, arts and entertainment, healthy food options, safe and inviting open-space options, and so much more. It’s never too late to undo the wrongs of the past if we have a clear and renewed vision for the future.”
“Democrats in Congress and the Biden Administration are committed to equity as a core value. For every community to succeed, we need to invest according to need. I introduced the Reconnecting Communities Act in the House because we have a generational opportunity to transform our infrastructure and correct the mistakes of the past,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “This bill provides the resources we need to begin reconnecting these neighborhoods, create new job opportunities, provide economic development and dramatically improve quality of life for our communities and the health and well-being of residents. As we begin work in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on the American Jobs Plan, we’re prepared to deliver and ensure Baltimore, and communities throughout Maryland, get the funding they need to build back better.”
“For far too long, communities across the country – including many communities of color right here in Baltimore – have been locked out, left behind and cast aside when it comes to American infrastructure,” said Congressman John Sarbanes. “Working closely with our state and local partners, my colleagues and I in the Maryland Congressional Delegation will fight to advance efforts like the Reconnecting Communities Act and the American Jobs Plan, which would make critical investments in every community and strengthen our economy for all Americans.”
“I am thankful that Senators Van Hollen and Cardin and Congressmen Mfume and Brown are sponsoring legislation to address the harm done to West Baltimore communities. This legislation will help bring much needed federal support to deliver the kind of infrastructure our communities deserve,” said Maryland State Senator Charles Sydnor III.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring equitable investment to our community. It would help correct poor planning decisions from the past and reverse years of neglect,” said Baltimore City Councilman Dr. John Bullock.
“We certainly applaud the efforts of federal leaders in addressing the issue of the “Road to Nowhere” which has long divided and plagued our communities. The investment of Federal Dollars will not only create much needed jobs and opportunities for the area, but also re-connect these communities which have too long been divided by the Road to Nowhere. Today we begin to transform the “Road to Nowhere” to the “Road to Somewhere,” said Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes.
The Reconnecting Communities Act would establish a grant program at the Department of Transportation to help communities identify and remove or retrofit highway infrastructure that creates obstacles to mobility and opportunity. Senator Van Hollen serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and sat down with stakeholders to discuss this issue in April 2017, shortly after taking office. This legislation is based on a pilot program Senator Van Hollen initially authored in 2019. Last week, in his first hearing as Chair of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Cardin focused on equity in transportation infrastructure and the importance of this legislation in expanding opportunities for Baltimore City and elsewhere around the country.
A one-pager on the legislation can be found here.