Transportation chief Foxx in Detroit Thursday

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be in Detroit Thursday to talk about challenges confronting the African-American community and low-income Americans of all demographics.

Foxx, a former Charlotte, N.C., mayor, will make his remarks in the largest majority African American city in the United States. He will speak to the junior and senior classes of Cass Technical High School.

“Secretary Foxx will discuss his own personal experiences, observations on current issues related to race, while highlighting the Obama Administration’s efforts, particularly through the U.S. Department of Transportation, to connect disadvantaged communities to better jobs, schools, and opportunities,” Foxx’s office said.

Foxx will also make a major funding announcement that will improve Detroit’s public transportation system and help the city’s residents who depend on reliable and safe public transit. He will be joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan, and other officials. Michigan’s two senators said Monday that Detroit is getting nearly $26 million to buy 50 new buses.

Foxx was in Detroit earlier this month to announce an award of $12.2 million to M-1 Rail to help complete the project.

The Transportation Department this month announced $600 million in new TIGER grants after receiving about 800 applications seeking more than $9.5 billion. The department awarded 72 projects in 46 states with an emphasis on projects that could help create jobs.

“This is a project that will do wonders to transform inner city Detroit,” Foxx said earlier this month, saying he thinks M-1 Rail will help boost development in the M-1 corridor. The city of Detroit noted in its application in April that the area has 245 vacant acres around the corridor. “We’re very bullish on that project.”

Last year, Foxx spoke about race in a speech in Washington.

“The Civil Rights Movement was never about leapfrogging somebody else; it was about having the same opportunity as somebody else,” Foxx said. “At a certain point in our history, interstates were built that divided neighborhoods. At a certain point, transit systems were built kind of around places where people lived. At a certain level our transportation networks were built in a way that reflected the division in which they were created.”

Some of Detroit’s historically African American neighborhoods were destroyed or divided by the location of major freeways through the city —including Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. Tens of thousands of homes throughout Detroit were destroyed as city planners built a series of major freeways to make it easier for suburbanities to get downtown.

“In Columbus, there is a neighborhood and it’s a neighborhood called the King-Lincoln District. How appropriate, the King-Lincoln District — an area that was once vibrant, but today is highly African-American, highly minority, highly low-income. And at a certain point in time, I-71 ran right through the middle of King-Lincoln,” Foxx said last year.

“(Columbus) is capping that freeway and reconnecting that community once again. We are starting to see a time in which these connections are becoming more important to us. And I have to tell you, it’s not just in urban America. It’s in rural America, too,” Foxx said.