Economic Justice Includes Highway Removals

A $435 billion "economic justice" bill proposed by Democrats in the U.S. Senate includes $10 billion for projects that remove highways and build community-oriented assets in their place.

January 13, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Embarcadero

The Embarcadero in San Francisco, location of one of the most successful examples of urban highway removal in the United States. | Oscity / Shutterstock

Kea Wilson reports: "Shortly before the holiday recess, then-Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and a coalition of 25 Democratic senators introduced a $435 billion economic justice bill called S5065 that included a $10-billion pilot program aimed at helping communities tear down urban highways, and rebuild the surrounding neighborhoods with the needs of underserved communities in mind."

The "Restoring Neighborhoods and Strengthening Communities Program," known among advocates as the "Highways to Boulevards" initiative, would only be available in areas with large numbers of low-income residents and people of color.

The program is designed to avoid a top-down planning approach to the process of rebuilding. "Perhaps most critically, the initiative would make significant funds available specifically for the 'community engagement and capacity building' necessary to identify what underserved residents actually want to do with all the valuable land freed up when freeways are torn down," according to Wilson.

The program would also enable the creation of community land trusts. "[A]dvocacy groups, like Transportation for America, have heralded community land trusts as an essential companion to tear-down grants," according to Wilson.

The article includes a lot more detail about the benefits of tearing down urban highways and includes some speculation about how much progress can be made to advance the cause under the Biden administration and with Pete Buttigieg at the helm of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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