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The US Department of Transportation is using a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pause construction on a highway widening project near Houston, an uncommon move that could be an early test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to addressing past racial inequities, according to Politico.
As the populous region continues to grow, the Interstate 45 highway project has been heralded as a way to reduce congestion and improve commute times, but the additional lanes would also impact several heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents, businesses, and houses of worship in the path to relocate.
The construction plan, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, would widen the highway into three segments.
Local resistance to the I-45 project had been brewing for years, with many hearkening back to the 1950s when freeway routes were deliberately drawn to impact Black communities and divide people by race and class.
The I-45 project has at least been temporarily halted, with Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg now at the helm of the sprawling federal department.
Federal transportation authorities in March sent a letter asking Texas to pause contracts on the widening project while they reviewed racial justice complaints covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, along with environmental concerns.
The provision states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law
In a letter written to the Texas Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration cited community opposition in reviewing the I-45 widening project, mentioning Houston-area Democratic …read more