3 Freeway Cap Projects Designed to Undo the Racism of the Past

A trio of freeway cap proposals around the country—in St. Paul, Atlanta, and Austin—embody the potential of infrastructure change to undo the mistakes of the past.

October 8, 2020, 11:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Stitch

Central Atlanta Progress / The Stitch, designed by Jacobs.

Adina Solomon writes a summary of a recent ULI webinar hosted by the Curtis Infrastructure Initiative in provided information on the status and ambitions of three freeway cap projects, located in Atlanta, Austin, and St. Paul.

According to the premise of the webinar, COVID-19 and the ongoing civil unrest in response to recent police violence have renewed concerns about the legacy of land use and development. A new take on infrastructure, embodied by the symbolism and reality of freeway cap parks, was described by the webinar panel as a solution to the "economic malaise" impacting the nation, as well as the racist and discriminatory outcomes of 20th century planning.

In St. Paul, the nonprofit group ReConnect Rondo is spearheading a project that would add a land bridge over Interstate 94 "to bring equity to the Rondo neighborhood, where 85 percent of the city’s Black population lived in the 1950s and 1960s."

"The Rondo Community Land Bridge would create about 500 new housing units," reports Solomon. "More than 700 Black-owned homes were destroyed to make way for I-94."

In Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) is working to create “the Stitch,” to fill a need for parks in Atlanta's downtown. "[T]he construction of Interstate 75/85 cut up downtown and eliminated a grid of mostly Black neighborhoods, along with what was once the largest Jewish community in the city," according to Solomon.

Finally, the plan in Austin "is to create 11 acres (4.5 ha) of surface area out of proposed I-35 caps in three locations, in addition to creating a boulevard along the entire length of the 2.5-mile (4 km) corridor."

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