Proposed Bill Could Fund Redevelopment of Baltimore's 'Highway to Nowhere'

The Reconnecting Communities Act would provide funding for retrofitting highway infrastructure and reconnecting neighborhoods cut off by road projects.

May 27, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Bromo Seltzer Tower Baltimore

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West Baltimore's notorious "Highway to Nowhere," a project "once intended to connect I-70 to downtown and link it to I-95 and I-83" but stopped due to community opposition, could be revitalized as part of a new federal grant program proposed by U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin. As reported by Ron Cassie in Baltimore Magazine, the Reconnecting Communities Act "would establish a U.S. Department of Transportation grant program as part of President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan and assist communities in removing or retrofitting highway infrastructure that became an obstacle to mobility and economic opportunity."

The highway segment, while never completed, still had the effect of "dividing Black neighborhoods and serving as a stark example of the long history of inequity in infrastructure," according to Senator Van Hollen. The project displaced "more than 970 homes, 60 businesses, and 1,500 local residents." Since the halt of the project, a variety of redevelopment schemes have failed to come to fruition. The Red Line, a proposal to build a light rail line on the highway's median, was nixed by Governor Larry Hogan in 2015.

In 2018, "the Urban Land Institute—on behalf of the Baltimore Development Corporation—put together a report that suggested increased pedestrian infrastructure, more accessible green spaces and parks, and a retail hub and grocery store for the area could bridge the neighborhoods on each side of the highway. That study also suggested maintaining a 20-foot corridor in case the Red Line, or another mass transit project, is revived."

Mayor Brandon Scott praised the bill as a step toward "building a better Baltimore that eliminates concrete barriers to economic mobility and opportunity."

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 in Baltimore Magazine

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