How Policymakers Are Grappling With the Racist Legacy of Urban Freeways

In Michigan, the state's Department of Transportation is looking for ways to mitigate the damage caused by decades of urban renewal policies and reconnect neighborhoods cut off from amenities and opportunities by highway projects.

February 7, 2022, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Detroit Freeway

Linda Parton / Shutterstock

In response to criticism of the Biden administration's commitment to addressing the racism and discrimination built into U.S. roads, Nancy Derringer explains how roads and infrastructure can have disproportionately negative impacts on Black and brown communities, quoting Paul Ajegba, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, who participated in a recent virtual panel on the issue. As Derringer writes,

Southeast Michigan is dotted with examples of roads and infrastructure that had the effect of dividing or demolishing neighborhoods populated by people of color. I-375, the spur that carries motorists from I-75 into downtown, is only the most obvious example. Built from 1959-65, it sliced through the footprint of the Black Bottom neighborhood, which had already been razed in the name of urban renewal. The generational wealth that was lost is incalculable, Ajegba said.

"Rather than top-down planning and development, today’s infrastructure design is more likely to be a collaborative effort that looks at nearby neighborhoods holistically, said Jon Kramer, another panelist and president of OHM Advisors, consultants who aid in such planning."

Planners are also recognizing the importance of multimodal transportation options and the need to replace car-centric infrastructure with safe, convenient facilities that benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders as well. Ajegba states that policymakers in Michigan have "a renewed emphasis on equity, inclusion and social justice."

Thursday, January 27, 2022 in Deadline Detroit

A row of young people outdoors using smartphones

Say Goodbye to the ‘Millennial Lifestyle Subsidy’

The era of cheap, on-demand services is coming to a close as unprofitable startups face the realities of capitalism.

June 14, 2022 - The Atlantic


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

Unhoused person under a freeway overpass in Houston, Texas

How Houston Is Eliminating Chronic Homelessness

Taking a comprehensive ‘Housing First’ approach, the city of Houston has cut homelessness by 63 percent in the last decade.

June 15, 2022 - The New York Times

A privately owned public space at 555 Mission Street with large sculptures and benches.

The Return of San Francisco’s Privately Owned Public Spaces

In San Francisco, you can find respite from city life in some unexpected places—if you know where to look.

June 26 - The San Francisco Chronicle

A view of a large water tower, with the words and logo of Fort Worth, looming over a wide freeway.

Advocates Hope the Next Texas Freeway Widening Won’t Be the Like the Previous

Community Design Fort Worth, a nonprofit collective of planners and designers, is pushing the Texas Department of Transportation to do something revolutionary with its plans to widen Interstate 30.

June 26 - Fort Worth Report

View of New York City apartment buildings.

New York City Approves Rent Hikes on Rent-Stabilized Apartments

The rent increases, which the Rent Guidelines Board deemed necessary to support “mom and pop” landlords, will affect two million residents.

June 26 - The New York Times

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.