Interstate Injustice: Plowing Highways Through Minority Neighborhoods – Updated

I-35E bisecting Oak Cliff – Source: September 18, 1961 – Tom Dillard/The Dallas Morning News

The list provided at the end of the post is a partial tally of the once vibrant, historically Black and Latino neighborhoods that have been largely decimated by Interstate Highway construction. Much of this community displacement and destruction took place in the height of the freeway construction era in the 1950s through 1970s, by cutting large swaths of concrete through America’s inner cities.

One the most devastating projects was the construction of I-95 through the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, where more than 10,000 residents were uprooted by the highway. But Miami was certainly not alone, as cities across the country used the Interstate Highway construction boom as a mandate to clear away neighborhoods largely populated by the poor and minorities in the guise of urban renewal, slum clearance, or economic development.

More often than not, the actual outcomes were dead zones in the cities, white flight to the suburbs via sprawl development, and freeways used as concrete segregation barriers to keep the so-called undesirables hemmed into a defined area. Instead of living on the wrong side of the tracks, many minorities and poor whites now lived on the wrong side of the Interstate.

I-4 in Orlando separating the Paramore neighborhood from downtown: Source:

Despite all the historical evidence, similarly unjust, short-sighted, and discriminatory highway projects continue to be proposed and built today.  This is evident by projects like I-49 which is proposed to plow through the Allendale neighborhood in Shreveport, Louisiana and enormous Interstate Highway widening projects in Tampa, Florida and Denver, Colorado.

“Nearly 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that Florida’s Department of Transportation plans to demolish are black and Latino, according to a Tampa Bay Times analysis.”

And it’s not just the forced removal that decimates these neighborhoods, but also the long-term health impacts of the new or expanded highway on those residents who remain after the project is completed, as this quote from the Denver Independent notes.

“The Sierra Club cites a 2014 Denver Environmental Health Department report which says that residents in the north Denver neighborhoods adjacent to I-70 experience a 70 percent higher mortality rate from heart disease than those neighborhoods in Denver not affected by highway pollution. The report also found that children in areas near I-70 have a 40 percent greater frequency of severe asthma-related urgent care visits compared to other parts of Denver.”

Instead of repeating past mistakes, as Shreveport is doing with a new highway through Allendale, cities and state highway department should be concentrating on correcting them or avoiding future dislocation of urban minority populations. Unfortunately, Shreveport will eventually find out that carving up the heart of your city leaves it hollow. That’s why some unjust highways segments have been removed altogether or placed underground across the country – Boston, New York City, Seattle, and Milwaukee can all attest to this.

An urban fabric is much more delicate than one might think. Like any woven tapestry, tearing and ripping at even the tightest weave will cause it to unravel. While many cities of the Rust Belt and Northeast are still trying to restitch themselves back together, growing cities in the South and West should be learning from those harmful historical lessens, lest they repeat them and end up in the same deteriorated condition a generation from now. Peace.




Akron, OH   

Shelbondy Hill (Lane-Wooster)


Atlanta, GA  



Atlanta, GA 

Old Fourth Ward

Freedom Parkway (never built)

Baltimore, MD

Harlem Park

I-70 (never built)

Baton Rouge, LA

Old South Baton Rouge


Birmingham, AL



Charlotte, NC



Chicago, IL



Cincinnati, OH

West End


Columbus, OH

Near East Side

I-71 and I-70

Columbus, OH

Mt. Vernon

I-71 and I-670

Dallas, TX

Tenth Street


Dallas, TX

Oak Cliff


Dallas, TX

Freedman’s Town

US 75/I-345

Dallas, TX

Lincoln Manor

US 175

Dallas, TX


US 175

Dallas, TX

Little Mexico


Denver, CO



Denver, CO


I-25 and I-70

Detroit, MI

Black Bottom


Detroit, MI

Paradise Valley


Durham, NC


SR 147 (former I-40)

Indianapolis, IN



Lansing, MI

Near South


Little Rock, AR

Ninth Street


Los Angeles

East LA

multiple freeways

Los Angeles

South Central


Macon, Ga

Pleasant Hill


Miami, FL



Milwaukee, WI



Montgomery, AL

Centennial Hill


Montgomery, AL

Bel Air


Montgomery, AL

The Bottoms


Nashville, TN

North Nashville


New Orleans, LA

N. Claiborne Ave.


Oakland, CA

West Oakland

I-880 and I-980

Oklahoma City, OK

Deep Deuce


Omaha, NE

North Omaha

US 75

Orlando, FL



Pittsburgh, PA

Hill District


Portland, OR



Richmond, Va



St. Louis, MO



St. Paul, MN



Shreveport, LA


I-49 (proposed)

Spokane, WA

East Central


Syracuse, NY

15th Ward


Tulsa, OK



Waco, TX



Washington, Dc



Winston-Salem, NC



4/12/18 Addendum: Four (4) additions since publication of the above list include the following:

Corpus Christi, TX – Hillcrest – I-37

Corpus Christi, TX – Washington-Coles – I-37

Jacksonville, FL – Fairfield – Alt. US 90

Knoxville, TN – Mechanicsville – I-40 and I-275

Addition on 8/20/19:

Las Vegas, NV – Historic Westside (First African-American neighborhood in the city)- I-15 (Thank you, Christie!)

Addition on 11/23/20:

Charleston, WV – Triangle District – I-64/77

7/1/19 News Update – Recently, Lansing, Michigan received a grant from the National Park Service to tell the story of the mostly minority residents who where dislocated by the construction of I-496. The program is called “Pave the Way” and is hoped it well help heal some of the past wounds by honoring memories of the neighborhood destroyed by the interstate.


This entry was posted in Advocacy, cities, civics, Civil Rights, economic development, environment, geography, health, history, Housing, humanity, infrastructure, land use, Maps, planning, politics, poverty, racism, social equity, spatial design, sprawl, traffic, transportation, urban planning, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Interstate Injustice: Plowing Highways Through Minority Neighborhoods – Updated

  1. Pingback: Mending Interstate Injustice – Freeway Capping Projects | Panethos

  2. p7612 says:

    Hello to every one, the contents present at this web page are actually remarkable for people knowledge, well,
    keep up the good work fellows.p7612

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Megan Humpert says:

    I am using this article in a research project and I was wondering what name you would prefer me to use in the author section.
    Thank you for publishing such a great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. christiet23 says:

    Hi there, I am writing a book on neighborhoods in Las Vegas. Thanks for such a great site on this topic! I found your site while researching impacts of interstate construction on Black neighborhoods. You should add Las Vegas to your list with the construction of the 1-15 interstate that took a section of the historic Westside, the first African American neighborhood in Las Vegas.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. William Robertson says:

    Well… it seems you’re suggesting we just don’t build anything. Should we just revert back to the cave man days? Would that make you happier? I’m very thankful these freeways were built. There were many other neighbourhods these highways went through and these folks unselfishly made way for these arteries for the overwhelming benefit of millions of others. Why doesn’t anyone write about these unselfish heros? These freeways made our nation great – joining us all together. If you drive at all and still wrote this, you should look up the work “hypocrite”. If you don’t go anywhere, then please accept my apologies. I feel sorry for you that you aren’t able to get out and enjoy the freedom that these marellous highways give us.


    • problogic says:

      Nobody is arguing against the Interstate Highway system in its entirety. That being said, there were a number of segments that could have been designed with more concern for the resulting environmental impacts and definitely less bigotry towards minority and poor neighborhoods.


  6. Agni Shah says:

    Would I possibly be able to use the table of the communities you mentioned that were impacted by the interstate construction in an infographic that I am wanting to create to illustrate how the displacement of Black and Brown communities is evident in our countries infrastructure? I would make sure to give you the credits for the table.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adding another community to the list: Gibson Grove in Cabin John, MD for original construction of I-495.


  8. Pingback: What is Motive Future? – MOTIVE FUTURE

  9. enyman78 says:

    Fantastic work! I am surprised no New York City neighborhoods are listed, considering how famous Robert Moses was for this practice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • problogic says:

      Thank you. Thats good questions. I guess i was partially due to it being easier find information on other places, but I am sure there are some examples in NYC. NYC is a good location to also find ones that were stopped such and the cross Manhattan freeway that would have cut across parts the lower island.


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