Biden’s Administration Just Gave Norfolk A $1.6 Million Grant to Address Racial Inequality


An example of a “spaghetti bowl” interchange near Springfield, Virginia. Credit to Trevor Wrayton and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

By Justice Menzel, News Editor

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg recently announced a complete list of federal grants that “will address infrastructure barriers that limit mobility, access, or economic development for communities across the country.” From the “Reconnecting Communities Program,” Virginia received a total of $2.95 million in grant-based funding that will be awarded between the cities of Richmond and Norfolk. The state’s capital will secure $250,000 less than Norfolk.


One of forty-five such cities to be selected by the program, Norfolk will receive $1.6 million to specifically address a “spaghetti bowl” of fourteen lanes, ramps, and interchanges on a stretch of I-264. Norfolk’s award is predicated on planning solutions rather than applying capital to the process of construction and demolition. 


The U.S. Department of Transportation stated that “I-264’s retroactive placement in downtown Norfolk cut off Black neighborhoods, public housing communities, and anchor institutions from downtown opportunities that include job centers, educational hubs, transportation resources, and cultural institutions. The legacy impacts of [the highway] are still felt today in the form of high unemployment, high poverty levels, and low educational attainment.”


Norfolk’s grant coincides with a Feb. 16 executive order “directing agencies to

advance racial equity and support for underserved communities, including through federal actions that strengthen urban equitable development and expand economic opportunity in rural communities.” 


Richmond’s funding will be used to plan the “Reconnect Jackson Ward” project that will redirect a freeway that cuts through a historically black neighborhood listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. 


All funding for the listed awards comes from President Biden’s recently passed “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” which originated in 2021 Congress sessions as the “INVEST in America Act.” Introduced as a nearly $550 Million addendum to the Congressional Budget, the “BIL” now encompasses about $1 trillion that’ll be spent over the next eight years. 


Norfolk listed “traffic studies, surveys, an Interchange Access Report, a feasibility analysis, preliminary design and engineering, a permitting analysis, and cost estimation” as the grant’s primary usages. 


The local government ensures that any decisions made will be “informed by community engagement.”