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Thriving Communities in Action

In its inaugural year, USDOT funded four National Capacity Builder Teams to support 64 communities across the United States through the FY 2022 Thriving Communities Program (TCP). A wide variety of technical assistance, planning, and capacity building work is being supported that reflects the diversity of these places. Communities are already seeing the impacts of this support. 

"Thriving Communities participants have proven that this technical assistance model increases their success in competing for federal grants and in using innovative solutions to deliver projects efficiently and cost effectively."

- Build America Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian

See the snapshots below for examples of the progress being made in communities to date, including work in:

In late November 2023, DOT hosted the first Thriving Communities Program Convening, which gathered nearly 350 people representing 62 of the FY 2022 communities in addition to federal staff and FY 2022 Capacity Builders at DOT Headquarters in Washington D.C. The Convening included plenary sessions on the interagency Thriving Communities Network, meaningful public involvement, community wealth building and workforce development, and housing. Capacity Builders also facilitated focused break-out sessions with their communities. Read more about the Convening and find more information about the FY 2022 Thriving Communities Capacity Builders and communities

Man standing speaking to a room of people seated at tables
FY 2022 Capacity Builder representatives facilitating a break-out session with communities during the 2023 TCP Convening.

Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe of Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation, Washington

The Shoalwater Bay Tribe, located along the Pacific Coast in Washington, faces serious issues related to flooding and erosion, access to and from the reservation, and a severe housing shortage. In recent years, extreme weather and flooding events have repeatedly cut off access to and from the Shoalwater Bay via Washington State Highway 105, creating serious safety and welfare concerns. Sizable portions of Tribal lands have been washed into the ocean. Additionally, due to the housing shortage, many members of the Tribe are unable to live on the reservation. 

View of houses and lawns near the Shoalwater bay
View of the Shoalwater Bay Tokeland Community. Photo credit: USDOT.

For more than two decades, the Shoalwater Bay Tribe has been working to implement a relocation plan. Land available for development is limited, but Tribal lands have been secured further inland on mountainous terrain and significant infrastructure development is needed to support relocation. In 2023, Shoalwater Bay was awarded a $6 million Indian Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build the first set of homes, and USDOT awarded the tribe a $24 million RAISE grant for the construction of the road upland. A new tsunami vertical evacuation tower in Tokeland, built by the Shoalwater Tribe, was constructed in 2022. The Tribe has also partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work to restore and protect cultural lands, ecologically significant wetlands, and endangered species. 

A significant part of the support provided by Thriving Communities Program (TCP) Capacity Builder Team, led by National Main Street America, will be focused on development of a Master Plan to align the various grants and technical assistance that the Tribe has already received. TCP will play a key role in bringing together federal agency partners to continue interagency coordination efforts and to leverage additional support and resources for Shoalwater Bay. A site visit in February 2024 brought together six federal agencies, several state and local agencies, and Tribal leaders committed to the relocation upland project.

Video file
Hear from the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe about what this work means to their community

Detroit, Michigan

According to the ETC Explorer, 85 percent of census tracts in the City of Detroit are disadvantaged. Southwest Detroit, a majority Latino community, is the area of focus for Thriving Communities Program support. The Livernois Intermodal Freight Terminal (shared by CSX, NS, and Conrail railroads), the Port of Detroit, and the Detroit Truck Ferry are all located here. The freight infrastructure of Southwest Detroit is woven together through its freeway, arterial, and neighborhood street network, all frequented by round-the-clock heavy truck traffic, including on residential streets. Frequent truck traffic causes negative health and safety impacts ranging from increased exposure to accidents, higher air pollution, noise, foundation-damaging vibration, and deteriorated right-of-way infrastructure not designed for heavy vehicles.

Streetview image of cars and large trucks on roadway.
Truck traffic on Vernor Highway in Southwest Detroit. Image source: Google Earth Street View.

The Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT) Project is an initiative focused on constructing and expanding an intermodal freight facility in Southwest Detroit, facilitating the seamless transfer of freight between trucks and trains. The DIFT Project will support the economic competitiveness of southeastern Michigan and the state by improving freight transportation opportunities and efficiencies for business and industry. The city has prioritized mitigating impacts of truck traffic on neighborhoods located in the southwest area with an aim to provide long-term solutions. Detroit is also striving to secure funding for transportation infrastructure and rail crossing projects.

Map of Detroit showing top freight generator areas, the Southwest study area, and the City of Detroit boundary
Southwest Detroit Study Area. Image credit: The Ray.

The Thriving Communities Program is providing technical support, led by MZC Foundation, Inc., for transportation planning to improve efficiency and mitigate community impact of rail and freight movement in Southwest Detroit by assisting the city in developing a vision and comprehensive plan for the DIFT 2.0 plan including potential community impacts associated with the Gordie Howe International Bridge Project and other notable freight projects. The TCP technical support will also facilitate collaboration between stakeholders, including the community-based organizations, local authorities, and relevant state agencies to ensure a cohesive and coordinated approach to infrastructure development.  

In October 2023, the non-governmental organization Communities First Fund held a regional convening in Detroit, bringing together federal, state, and local agencies and philanthropic leaders to discuss federal funding opportunities and support to disadvantaged communities. In January 2024 USDOT and the Kresge Foundation entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate and share information about their respective technical assistance programs to leverage assistance in Southwest Detroit.

West Baltimore, Maryland

West Baltimore neighborhoods face lasting negative impacts from systemic racial discrimination, disinvestment, and discriminatory housing policies. The housing stock in these neighborhoods is deteriorating and pedestrian safety is a serious concern for residents, especially on routes children take to reach neighborhood schools and

Group of people sitting at tables while a woman facilitates the meeting
Thriving Communities pre-community tour briefing in West Baltimore, February 2024. Photo credit: WSP.

access the West Baltimore MARC Transit Hub, which includes the West Baltimore MARC Commuter Rail Station. Residents must cross six lanes of traffic on Interstate 40 to access the regional train station. More than 43 percent of households have no vehicle and 21 percent of workers rely on transit to commute to work and access destinations but face hostile walking and biking environments. Poor transit frequency leads to long commute times for many, with the average commute to work taking about 40 minutes. 

Thriving Communities Program support, provided by the WSP USA-led capacity builder team, is focused on assisting the City of Baltimore in engaging neighborhood leaders and organizations in Fayette Street Outreach, Franklin Square, Midtown-Edmondson, and Boyd Booth to enhance safe multimodal access, improve connectivity to transit, and foster equitable transit-oriented development (TOD). Support includes improving coordination with Baltimore agencies to stimulate economic growth and TOD without displacing residents and developing training materials and engagement activities for community leaders focused on activating youth in community revitalization. TCP support is also focused on implementing the existing West Baltimore MARC Station Area Plan and modernizing it to reflect current priorities, needs, and planned projects. Capacity Builders are creating a living matrix of potential funding opportunities the City of Baltimore and community partners can pursue to develop future grant applications for affordable housing and commercial projects.

Row of dilapidated homes in Baltimore
Vacant homes within the Baltimore focus area – a potential future opportunity for strategic infill development and rehabilitation. Photo credit: WSP.

Planned technical assistance support includes convening community partners to identify specific opportunities to coordinate and engage in broader workforce development efforts associated with major transportation investments being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including Amtrak’s Frederick Douglass rail tunnel project, which includes the rebuilding of the West Baltimore MARC station; the West Baltimore United Reconnecting Communities planning effort; the East-West Priority Corridor Project RAISE grant project; and the revival of MDOT MTA’s proposed Red Line light rail route to connect West & East Baltimore through the downtown.

City of York, Alabama

The City of York is a majority African American community in west central Alabama with approximately 2,500 residents, situated within Sumter County and within the traditional homeland of the Choctaw Nation and the Black Belt of Alabama. York faces challenges with frequent train crossings causing significant traffic delays, creating safety issues and delaying emergency service response times. Broad Street, which runs through the downtown, sees about 1,700 vehicles daily including lumber, timber, and large industry trucks oftentimes causing damage to the street signage, lighting, and street surfaces. York has also been experiencing job loss, disinvestment, and population decline. The City’s goal is to create an attractive, welcoming pedestrian environment on Broad Street, including new lighting and landscaping, and to reduce railroad crossing barriers and improve safety for all road users.

Group of five people standing in a road near brick buildings in conversation
Tour of York with Mayor Lake, federal partners, and Thriving Communities Program Capacity Builders. Photo credit: USDOT.

The Thriving Communities Program Capacity Builder team supporting York, led by Main Street America, is facilitating a community-driven strategy for downtown redevelopment that incorporates current projects and future initiatives to align these efforts with mobility and safety improvements. With the help of Thriving Communities, the Federal Railroad Administration has provided railroad planning technical assistance to help York prepare for upcoming discretionary grant opportunities. 

A February 2024 Thriving Communities site visit convened more than 20 local and regional stakeholders, including local business owners, the housing authority, residents, local non-profits, medical entities, and school representatives. During the site visit, community residents and business owners shared openly about the many issues they face from water quality, broadband connectivity, safety, and overall health and quality of life. The Capacity Builder team will continue work with the city to effectively engage with the community to help inform projects seeking DOT funding and to plan for longer term projects.

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio's future Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) Eastside and Westside Corridor Project is comprised of an approximately 7-mile-long section of roadway that will deliver rapid transit services to San Antonio's Eastside, downtown and Westside, areas that rely heavily on transit as the primary mode of transportation. This transformative project, delivered by VIA Metropolitan Transit (VIA), will also have a broader impact on the communities around the corridor, which are over-represented by low income and minority households when compared to Bexar County. Generations of disinvestment in these communities has further widened the economic gap households face; leaving San Antonio consistently ranked as one of the most economically segregated major cities in the United States. Communities located along the corridor are concerned about the risk of gentrification and displacement with the arrival of improved transit infrastructure, making it critical that VIA work with city, regional, and local development partners to ensure there are land use and housing protections and plans in place.

The ART East/West Corridor Project is a recipient of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program. San Antonio’s 2022-2027 Bond Program provided authorization for the City to issue $150 million in bonds to create and preserve affordable housing in multiple categories, with $17 million allocated specifically to San Antonio's Eastside and Westside communities. The entry of VIA's rapid transit project into the FTA CIG program, coupled with the passage of the City's 2022-2027 Bond Program, represents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage both federal and local funds for the betterment of San Antonio's Eastside and Westside communities.

With Thriving Communities Program support, VIA will develop a strategic plan informed by best practices related to urban and infrastructure design, placemaking, transit-oriented development implementation, and anti-displacement strategies. The TCP Capacity Builder team, led by WSP USA, will also support the development of an Engagement Plan that includes a clear framework for meaningfully engaging neighborhood residents, business owners, elected officials and other decision makers within the corridor and across the City. The Engagement Plan will be developed in coordination with the City of San Antonio Neighborhood & Housing Services public information campaign, the Area Foundation’s Reframing Housing Initiative, and the City of San Antonio Department of Human Services communication strategies. Capacity Builders will assist in the development and implementation of an action plan that will identify existing corridor plans for mitigating displacement and identify policies strategies that may require updates, including coordinating with agencies responsible for implementation of those strategies and policies.

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Hear about what Thriving Communities means for the San Antonio community