Tucked inside the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that’s set to go before the U.S. House of Representatives this week is a provision to remove or retrofit federal highways that have divided communities of color across the country, cutting them off from economic opportunities and deepening racial inequality for decades. But the funding for the Reconnecting Communities Initiative, which began as a separate bill before it was added to the broader infrastructure package, has shrunk from a respectable $20 billion down to $1 billion in the legislation before the House. The scale-back has prompted discussion about the need to restore Black communities and neighborhoods isolated by federal infrastructure projects—a result that advocates say is based on more than a century of white supremacist urban planning. Someone at the forefront of that conversation is Joan Fitzgerald, professor of public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern, who, along with a colleague, recently wrote about the subject for The Conversation. Fitzgerald—whose work links racial equity issues with economic development and innovation, or so-called “greenovation”—says it’s high time the federal government began to undo the damages caused by “racist infrastructure” that have helped shape economic disparities among communities of color and white communities. “We need to be looking at ways to redress that discrimination and wealth, but it starts with where people are living,” Fitzgerald says. Fitzgerald says that the divisive highway systems have got to go; but the question is: What do we replace them with—and who decides? These questions will be explored, among a host of other climate justice topics, in a new book she is working on with colleague Julian Agyeman, an urban affairs expert and professor at Tufts University. The book also will attempt to explicate infrastructure solutions that are necessarily tied to the climate justice agenda, Fitzgerald says.

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