Levitate Legal & Consulting, LLC grants team were the lead writers on the U.S. Department of Transportation Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program proposal submitted by the City of Birmingham, Alabama (City), in partnership with the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA). The City was one of 45 awardees out of more than 430 nationwide applicants.
The planning grant award of $800,000 will help the City and BJCTA advance data-driven transportation recommendations in the nine ImagineBham plans and other relevant assessments to mitigate the negative impact of interstates, railroads, and major arterial roadways.
The grant is part of $185 million in awards for 45 communities announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The first round of funding for the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Grant Program includes six capital construction grants and 39 planning grants.
The proposed Transportation Capital Investment Plan (TCIP) will reallocate space for public transportation, pedestrians, and cyclists, rather than fueling an expanding roadway network that encourages sprawling land use. The TCIP will identify implementation projects that leverage existing corridors to reconnect Birmingham’s historic neighborhoods, thriving urban villages, and commercial nodes.
“We were proud to welcome U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to Birmingham in June 2022 to announce this transformative federal program, which seeks to stitch neighborhoods back together that have been cut off from one another by highway and rail infrastructure,” says Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Transportation for investing in Birmingham’s efforts to enhance transit, pedestrian, and cycling infrastructure for our residents and increase access to goods, services, and jobs.”
Today, over 75 percent of Birmingham’s original urban villages are bordered or intersected by an interstate, rail line, and/or major arterial roadway. These dividing facilities, and the resulting car-focused roadway design, perpetuate citywide car dependency. Most Birmingham residents commute to work by car, with over 80 percent driving alone (U.S. Census Bureau). While 8 in 10 metropolitan area workers drive to work, those without a car have limited transportation options. Indeed, transportation and economic mobility are inextricably linked. In the Birmingham metro, access to a car increases the number of jobs accessible within a 30-minute commute by a factor of 100 according to a recent Brookings Institution report.
The TCIP will identify the transit-centered, multimodal projects that would have the greatest impact on citizen mobility as well as access to jobs, healthcare, grocery stores, schools, places of worship, entertainment, and green spaces. In addition, the TCIP will identify opportunities for focused transit-oriented development and begin Birmingham’s transformation from a car-oriented city to one where residents can rely on public transportation.
“We want to create a truly multimodal city where people can easily walk, take public transportation, or ride their bike to get where they are going. This grant will help us build that vision. We look forward to working on this closely with the BJCTA to build a roadmap for a more mobile Birmingham,” says City of Birmingham Director of Transportation James Fowler.
“This is another significant win for transit in Birmingham,” says BJCTA Executive Director Charlotte Shaw. “This example of integrated planning with the City of Birmingham demonstrates how we can advance future investments. It also represents the U.S. Department of Transportation’s continued commitment to placing Transit On the Grow in Birmingham.”
The City of Birmingham and BJCTA each pledged $100,000 in matching funds to support these efforts.