Detroit Plans Freeway Removal To Spur Economic Development

City and state officials hope the proposal to turn part of I-375 into a walkable boulevard will help bring back businesses and economic vitality to the area.

March 20, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Map of proposed project area

Michigan Department of Transportation / Proposed project area

A one-mile stretch of Interstate 375 in Detroit could become a "livable, walkable, rideable" boulevard that accommodates pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users. Eli Newman reports on a plan being formed by the state and the city to reconnect the neighborhood that the interstate sliced through decades ago. 

"Construction on I-375 started in 1959, displacing African-American businesses and residential life in Black Bottom and Paradise Valley. [Michigan Governor Gretchen] Whitmer says there is 'a sad history' behind the construction of the freeway, which had 'devastating impacts.' The boulevard project could unify the surrounding areas today." The article points out that "According to the Detroit Historical Society, there were more than 300 Black-owned businesses in the district during the 1920s, when many African American migrants from the South came to the near east neighborhoods."

Transforming the freeway to a boulevard could "improve walkability and re-establish business along the corridor," according to Detroit mayor Mike Duggan. "Duggan says the I-375 project could resemble recent streetscape restoration in Detroit like the “Avenue of Fashion” section of Livernois. He says there would need to be a combined city and state authority that oversees the development."

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) anticipates construction could begin in 2027 and last three years, notes Newman. "The state is holding community meetings to discuss design plans following initial approval from the federal government."

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