ReConnect Rondo, a local grassroots organization in St. Paul, MN, hosted the first “Reconnecting Communities Summit” on October 11-14, as part of a broader national effort to open a dialogue between transportation officials and community organizations seeking to leverage grants awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods” pilot program.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

The AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence – operated by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration – was thrilled to work with Reconnect Rondo and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) to sponsor the summit.

ReConnect Rondo is an organization with a mission to revitalize the Rondo community with a land bridge that reconnects the historic Rondo neighborhood that was divided by the construction of Interstate 94 during the post-World War II highway building boom.

Photo by AASHTO

ReConnect Rondo, COMTO, and the Center for Environmental Excellence hope to use the momentum of the summit as a springboard to the development of a “community of practice” for both recipients of the $185 million in grants issued via the first round of USDOT’s “Reconnecting” program as well as other organizations seeking future grant opportunities through it.

The summit featured a plenary session that included speeches from ReConnect Rondo Board Chair Marvin Roger Anderson, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-4), and COMTO Minnesota Chapter President Tekia Jefferson. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter III also spoke at the meeting. The event’s diverse array of presentations and forums, along with question and answer panels, put a spotlight on equity in transportation and the importance of robust community engagement and outreach.

Concluding the summit were words from Keynote speaker Liz Ogbu, architect and author of numerous works tackling the challenges of cultural leadership and community building, as well as an address from U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

In addition to helping sponsor the summit, the Center for Environmental Excellence is featuring interviews with summit participants on its Environmental Technical Assistance Program or ETAP podcast as part of its four-part series on transportation equity.