How Federal Funds Can Benefit Freeway Removal Projects

The recently passed infrastructure bill dedicates $1 billion to freeway removal and capping, but the sum is only a 'first step' toward redressing the injustices perpetuated by urban highway projects.

December 16, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


New Orleans Freeway

TBaker770 / Shutterstock

Wyatt Gordon describes the Biden administration's push to use newly available infrastructure funds to rectify some of the injustices wrought by urban renewal policies and the interstate highway system that have ravaged neighborhoods and destroyed homes, businesses, and livelihoods over the last half century.

According to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, "Twenty-first century planning has to be about how any new transportation asset is integrating the surrounding areas. How do we knit it all together in a way that benefits all?" The new infrastructure bill allocates $1 billion to freeway removal and capping projects, which could prove 'transformational' if distributed effectively.

With $1.2 trillion in new spending in the bipartisan infrastructure bill on everything from Amtrak and public transit to bridge repairs and road expansions, ensuring equitable engagement surrounding such huge investments will be no easy feat.

The $1 billion dedicated to freeway removal could be a drop in the bucket compared to the nation's needs. According to Gordon, "Tearing out an expressway which decimated the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans has been estimated to cost $500 million alone." But Buttigieg characterizes that initial spending as a "first step" towards restoring and reconnecting communities.

As awareness of the damaging impacts of urban freeways grows, highway removal is quickly gaining traction as an important tool for fighting injustice, improving neighborhood connectivity, and providing economic opportunities in underserved areas. While local leaders frequently oppose freeway construction projects—see Houston's beleaguered Interstate 45 expansion as an example—federal agencies have been slow to change decades-old policies that hinder highway removal. Advocates say state and federal DOTs should rethink their 'throughput at all costs' mentality in favor of creating streets that are safe and economically vibrant.

Monday, December 13, 2021 in Streetsblog USA

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

Minneapolis

Judge Blocks Minneapolis 2040 Implementation, Citing Lack of Environmental Review

Environmentalists have used the power of the legal system to protect the car-centric status quo of single-family zoning once again, overturning a landmark planning innovation in Minneapolis.

June 21, 2022 - MPR News

1984 Olympics

L.A. Seeking Funding for New Transit Projects Prior to the 2028 Summer Olympics

Los Angeles officials have been working for years to deliver a suite of transit projects in time for the 2028 Olympics. Planners now hope federal infrastructure funding could reinvigorate the effort.

June 20, 2022 - Los Angeles Times

A map showing the city of mesquite with surrounding freeways, roads, and cities.

Dallas-Area City Wants to Increase Minimum Home Size to 2,000 Square Feet

While some cities are finding ways to add density and use zoning as a tool for affordability, Mesquite, Texas is headed the other direction.

54 minutes ago - The Dallas Morning News

Raleigh

Raleigh Experiencing Dramatic Growth

The North Carolina capital is reinventing itself as a research and tech hub, attracting major employers and investment along the way.

1 hour ago - Commercial Observer

Bus Service

Big City Transit Agencies Face Budget Shortfalls

As rainy day funds and federal aid dwindle, transit agencies formerly reliant on farebox revenue are exploring new ways to fund their operations.

2 hours ago - Governing

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.