When Birmingham, Alabama, was devastated by a tornado in April 2011, residents and community leaders immediately put the city on a "Road To Recovery." And when DOT awarded the project a 2012 TIGER grant, we helped keep that important recovery effort moving forward.
Last week, the initiative took another step forward as Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Birmingham Mayor William Bell and others to break ground on the Enon Ridge Multimodal Corridor and Civil Rights Complete Streets project, a key part of the 33.6 mile transportation network envisioned by the Road To Recovery.
With repaired roadways, new and restored sidewalks, and upgraded bicycle paths, the Road To Recovery will improve access for 250,000 residents to public transit, jobs, retail districts, hospitals, and other services. The corridor will also connect 21 different neighborhoods.
As Mayor Bell said, "That's what community is all about -- reaching out to others and letting everybody know that we're not isolated, but we're an organism that's connected on so many levels. This grant will allow us to make that connectivity visible for all of our people."
Another key segment is on Center Street, part of the "March to Fair Housing" section of Birmingham's Civil Rights Heritage Trail. The March was one event in the pivotal year of 1963. From Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," to the marches, to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1963 Birmingham played an important role in our nation's history.
So it's fitting that --50 years later-- leaders broke ground to start this ambitious project in a neighborhood called "Dynamite Hill," the scene of several 1963 bombings.
It's also fitting that this TIGER project brings a wide range of partners together. As Administrator Mendez said, "Getting the TIGER grant was a real community effort involving government, the private sector and a host of dedicated stakeholders. It epitomizes what the TIGER program is all about, partners coming together to advance an innovative idea that didn’t come from Washington – but came from right here in Birmingham."
Improving transportation choices, reconnecting neighborhoods, stimulating economic development, and commemorating history--that's a terrific combination of dividends.
And that's why DOT is happy to be able to offer another round of TIGER grants in 2013. The application window has opened, and the deadline for submitting proposals is June 3. We’re making available $474 million and we know the competition for those funds promises to be strong.
But we also know that the projects that earn awards will --like Birmingham's Road To Recovery-- make a big difference in their communities.