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Pete Buttigieg in Birmingham’s Historic Black Business District to Highlight Infrastructure Funding

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Birmingham on Wednesday to celebrate a $14.5 million federal grant to turn Fourth Avenue North in the city’s Black Business District into a two-way street. (Sym Posey, The Birmingham Times)

By Sym Posey | The Birmingham Times

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was in Birmingham on Wednesday to celebrate a $14.5 million federal grant to turn Fourth Avenue North in the city’s Black Business District into a two-way street.

“We’re here because everybody recognizes all the ways in which infrastructure shapes our lives and we feel it when something goes wrong,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t pay attention to it when everything goes right, but a lot of work goes into making sure that it goes right. And that’s what today is about.”

The grant of $14,556,040 will come from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Neighborhood Access and Equity grant program to re-connect the historic Fourth Avenue Black Business District.

Buttigieg was joined by Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Mayor Randall Woodfin, community leaders, and Fourth Avenue businessmen and women outside the historic Carver Theater/Jazz Hall of Fame in the Birmingham Civil Rights District.

The transportation secretary said his visit was “about better infrastructure for the future and it’s about putting right things that have been done wrong in the past. Part of what brings me to Birmingham today is recognizing the consequences of infrastructure decisions that were made generations ago and our regard for a community’s vision,” said Buttigieg.

The grant will restore and reconnect Fourth Avenue to revitalized 15 blocks and restore the two-way design that was original to this neighborhood and add more modern features. “People are going to find it easier and more comfortable and safer to move on this quarter, whether walking, biking, riding the bus, or driving,” said Buttigieg.

Many past decisions have created barriers between people and opportunity –especially in African American communities and the Fourth Avenue business district – Black Main Street, is a prime example, said Sewell.

“We know that the historic Fourth Avenue business district has a very rich legacy of African American ingenuity and entrepreneurship. We also know that we’ve seen the crippling effects of infrastructure policy that has sought to divide us,” she said. “Our people deserve better, and we are so thrilled that the Biden Harris administration is helping us right these wrongs and level the playing field for Fourth Avenue business district.”

For Birmingham to create a thriving downtown and thriving neighborhoods, “we need streets where a mother can safely push a stroller across a crosswalk,” said Woodfin. “Our vision is to create a truly multimodal model City, a city where people can walk, ride public transportation or ride a bike to get to their destination.

Some of the changes may take time, he said. Many in the area are “trapped in a culture of car dependency,” he said. “It will take us some time to undo this infrastructure and redesign our streets and systems. This project is a major step in safer streets with this Fourth Avenue project.”