Interstate Injustice: Plowing Highways Through Minority Neighborhoods


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: https://www.moderncities.com/article/2017-mar-the-rise-and-fall-of-an-african-american-inner-city/page/1

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.

CITY   

NEIGHBORHOOD

HIGHWAY

Akron, OH   

Shelbondy Hill (Lane-Wooster)

I-76/I-77

Atlanta, GA  

Mechanicsville

I-20

Atlanta, GA 

Old Fourth Ward

Freedom Parkway (never built)

Baltimore, MD

Harlem Park

I-70 (never built)

Baton Rouge, LA

Old South Baton Rouge

I-10

Birmingham, AL

East

I-20/I-59

Charlotte, NC

Brooklyn

I-277

Chicago, IL

Southside

I-90/I-94

Cincinnati, OH

West End

I-75

Columbus, OH

Near East Side

I-71 and I-70

Columbus, OH

Mt. Vernon

I-71 and I-670

Dallas, TX

Tenth Street

I-35E

Dallas, TX

Oak Cliff

I-35E

Dallas, TX

Freedman’s Town

US 75/I-345

Dallas, TX

Lincoln Manor

US 175

Dallas, TX

Bonton

US 175

Dallas, TX

Little Mexico

I-345

Denver, CO

Elyria-Swansea

I-70

Denver, CO

Globeville

I-25 and I-70

Detroit, MI

Black Bottom

I-75

Detroit, MI

Paradise Valley

I-375

Durham, NC

Hayti

SR 147 (former I-40)

Indianapolis, IN

Northwest

I-65

Lansing, MI

Near South

I-496

Little Rock, AR

Ninth Street

I-630

Los Angeles

East LA

multiple freeways

Los Angeles

South Central

I-105

Macon, Ga

Pleasant Hill

I-16/I-75

Miami, FL

Overtown

I-95

Milwaukee, WI

Bronzeville

I-43

Montgomery, AL

Centennial Hill

I-65/I-85

Montgomery, AL

Bel Air

I-65/I-85

Montgomery, AL

The Bottoms

I-65/I-85

Nashville, TN

North Nashville

I-40

New Orleans, LA

N. Claiborne Ave.

I-10

Oakland, CA

West Oakland

I-880 and I-980

Oklahoma City, OK

Deep Deuce

I-235

Omaha, NE

North Omaha

US 75

Orlando, FL

Parramore

I-43

Pittsburgh, PA

Hill District

I-579

Portland, OR

Albina

I-5

Richmond, Va

Carver

I-95

St. Louis, MO

Riverfront

I-70

St. Paul, MN

Rondo

I-94

Shreveport, LA

Allendale

I-49 (proposed)

Spokane, WA

East Central

I-90

Syracuse, NY

15th Ward

I-81

Tulsa, OK

Greenwood

I-244/I-444

Waco, TX

Northeast/Riverside

I-35

Washington, Dc

Southwest

I-395

Winston-Salem, NC

Reynoldstown

I-40

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

SOURCES:

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This entry was posted in Advocacy, cities, civics, 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.

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