On May 21, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. President and CEO Clyde Higgs hosted U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg in our office for a roundtable and a press conference on transportation, jobs, housing, and equity. The Secretary was joined by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, Rep. Nikema Williams, Rep. Lucy McBath, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, MARTA CEO Jeff Parker, Atlanta Regional Commission’s Mike Alexander, Invest Atlanta CEO Eloisa Klementich, Center for Community Progress’ Odetta Macleish-White, Atlanta Land Trust’s Amanda Rhein, Center for Pan-Asian Community Service’ Frank Lee, U.S. DOT’s Charles Smalls, U.S. DOT’s Christopher Coes, and esteemed partners. ABI’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Nonet Sykes, also joined the roundtable discussion.
Before and during the roundtable, Clyde and Nonet had the opportunity to speak directly with the Secretary on the importance of completing the Atlanta BeltLine and our efforts to advance equity around the BeltlLne corridor which also supports the Mayor’s vision for One Atlanta. Federal funding plays a critical role in delivering the Atlanta BeltLine vision, especially as it relates to transit and trail construction. The City and ABI are applying for a FY21 USDOT RAISE grant to support construction of almost two miles of the Southside Trail.
Senator Ossoff expressed urgency around building the BeltLine faster, noting Atlanta can’t wait 10 years to finish the trails nor 30-40 years to build out transit. During a U.S. Senate committee hearing the day before, Ossoff requested Buttigieg’s support in developing a comprehensive plan and funding for the BeltLine and MARTA expansion. As reported by the AJC: “Buttigieg responded that he ‘absolutely’ would. He said his agency is eager to partner on bus rapid transit and would meet with Ossoff to talk about the BeltLine.”
Mr. Higgs spoke during the press conference about the importance of using public infrastructure, jobs, affordable housing, and transportation to provide benefit to community and people. Secretary Buttigieg followed on to say:
“…as Clyde pointed out, it’s really about human beings, making sure that transportation infrastructure revolves around people rather than the other way around… housing and transportation infrastructure are two sides of the same coin. It’s why the concern and the proactive work that we discussed when it comes to housing affordability and how that relates to the BeltLine – the fact that this is not just about the path itself, but the development that can be unlocked by that path – all fits together in a bigger vision. It really is not just about the specific mode of how a person moves around, but how it’s part of the life of a community that is so inspiring here, and I think it is a reason why a lot of different communities are so interested in the work that the BeltLine represents.”
In an interview afterwards with The Atlanta Voice, Secretary Buttigieg stated:
“The vision I heard today for the Beltline is this idea of making sure that it serves everybody, and that it is directly connected to things like affordable housing, that are going to make a difference for people at every part of the economic ladder in this. You know, this is a community that has a remarkable history in terms of, of course, the civil rights movement, in terms of Black-owned businesses.
But there’s also a lot of work ahead, a big hill to climb in terms of equality, racial and economic justice. And so every project, including a transportation-themed project, can either help or it can hurt when it comes to equity. And what I think is so interesting, and so important, are the ideas that have emerged about how to make sure that these public and community investments lead to more wealth generation for everybody, and more prosperity for everybody. And I see a lot of intention about that, realizing it won’t happen on its own, and it’s not automatic.”
The honor of hosting one of the members of the President Biden’s Cabinet and members of Georgia’s congressional delegation continues the Atlanta BeltLine’s position on the national stage. The Atlanta BeltLine is the largest infrastructure redevelopment project of its kind in the nation and sets the examples for projects across the country. Federal understanding and support is imperative to building it in a way that is equitable for all Atlantans.
Additional media coverage:
The Atlanta Voice: Buttigieg visits Atlanta, promotes Pres. Biden’s American Jobs Plan.