Monday, May 27, 2024

Biden pledges billions to rebuild cities ‘torn apart’ by highways decades ago

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Joe Biden hailed the beginning of $3.3bn in infrastructure spending on US projects on Wednesday “to right historic wrongs” with efforts to reconnect city neighborhoods riven by interstate highways that plowed with particular impunity through many Black, brown, Asian American and Hispanic communities decades ago.

The US president was in Milwaukee, where he traveled to announce new infrastructure investment and officially open his election campaign’s Wisconsin office in the vital swing state.

Democratic party campaigns in Wisconsin are typically run from the state capital, Madison, whereas the Biden re-election campaign has picked Milwaukee, the more industrial and diverse city on Lake Michigan, where 40% of residents are Black. The Republicans will hold their convention in Milwaukee in July.

Biden is striving to make an impact on the campaign trail in a number of swing states this week after his fiery State of the Union speech last week.

He travels to Michigan on Thursday, part of the “blue wall”, along with Pennsylvania, where Biden was born and has made more campaign trips than any other state.

Donald Trump flipped all three states to win the White House in 2016, but Biden took them back four years ago and almost certainly needs to hold them if he is to secure a second term.

Biden and Trump unofficially clinched their parties’ respective nominations on Tuesday night after more primary wins, and expect to be officially anointed at their party conventions this summer.

The rare presidential election rematch, the first since 1956, comes while Trump is due in court later this month for the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president, with more to come as he faces 91 criminal charges across four cases at federal and state levels.

On Wednesday, the White House declared that $3.3bn in federal funding is being allocated in more than 40 states, originating from the Biden administration’s 2021 infrastructure legislation, to help areas “divided by transportation infrastructure decades ago and [that] have long been overlooked”.

Biden announced a $36.6m federal grant on his Milwaukee visit to upgrade sidewalks and create cycle lanes, greater access to mass transit and more greenery in the South 6th Street area of Bronzeville, a historic majority African American neighborhood.

Biden said the construction of interstate highways there led to the demolition of roughly 17,000 homes and 1,000 businesses, disproportionately impacting Black and poor neighborhoods in the 1960s, with a losses of prosperity and opportunities “that still reverberate today”.

He pledged “to right historic wrongs and, in the process, deliver environmental justice to disadvantaged neighborhoods”.

The US transportation department estimates that at least a million people and businesses in the US were displaced by decades of harmful urban renewal projects in the buildout of the federal highway system, a statement from the White House said.

Biden said: “The story of Bronzeville here in Milwaukee is one we see all across the country. Our interstate highway system laid out in the 1950s was a groundbreaking connection of our nation, coast to coast … but instead of connecting communities, it divided them.”

He added: “These highways actually tore them apart … along with redlining, they disconnected entire communities from opportunities, sometimes, in an effort to reinforce segregation.”

Biden also took a jab directly at Trump’s conduct in dealing with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when he was president.

“My predecessor failed at the most basic duty any president owes the American people – the duty to care,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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