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Thompson, Buttigieg emphasize importance of Medgar Evers Blvd. project in Jackson

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, left, and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., right, confer outside the house that is the Medgar and Myrlie Evers National Monument, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Jackson, Miss. The house was one of the stops Buttigieg made as he spent Thursday and Friday in Mississippi, promoting projects that will be helped or will be receiving money from a federal infrastructure act. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Congressman Bennie Thompson and United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg were in Jackson on Friday to break ground on a massive improvement project for a decaying roadway in the capital city.

1.5 miles of Medgar Evers Boulevard will get a significant facelift, funded by a $20 million federal grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Discretionary (RAISED) grant program. Thompson and Buttigieg were joined by Reena Evers Everette, Central District Transportation Commissioner Willie Simmons, and other local leaders for the groundbreaking ceremony.

During the ceremony, Buttigieg noted that the project represents an important piece of the civil rights movement. The government funding aims to provide improved transportation infrastructure for disadvantaged communities to allow increased opportunities for growth.

“As we bear the moral weight of our inheritance, it feels a little bit strange to be talking about streetlights and ports, and highway funding and some of the other day-to-day transportation needs that we’re here to do something about,” Buttigieg said. “Equitable transportation has always been one of the core commitments, and for that reason has also always been one of the most important battlegrounds of the struggle for racial and economic justice and civil rights in this country.”

Reena Evers Everette, the daughter of Medgar Evers, thanked Thompson and Buttigieg for their part in the project. She explained that projects like this raise the bar of excellence for the city of Jackson and will result in community pride.

The project will include new sidewalks, streetlamps, road repair, medians, and the replacement of sewer and water infrastructure along the stretch.

In Thompson’s remarks, the Democratic congressman said the project was an effort towards reconnection in Jackson and should be seen as an initial step for a long list of needs to address.

“Statistics will show all throughout countries that [when] communities were split by interstate highways, communities were divided,” Thompson said. “Here is a way of trying to reconnect and fix some of the errors of that. This is just one of those down payments on making a difference. This down payment will fix some of the problems associated with years of neglect.”

Buttigieg spent several days touring Mississippi neighborhoods, noting that he’s seen plenty of other areas that need improvement to recover the equitable transportation he aims for across America.

“Better transportation can mean better opportunities for small businesses and for families,” Buttigieg said. “Good transportation can lead directly to economic opportunity in the same way that lack of access to transportation can cut people off from opportunity. We’re here to make sure that transportation connects, that it doesn’t divide.”

The project is set to be completed by 2026 with the city of Jackson providing matching funds to the federal grant.

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