New Orleans Residents Fight Freeways With Science

A local coalition is collecting data that proves the harmful impacts of the Claiborne Expressway on the surrounding community.

1 minute read

December 22, 2023, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Red, yellow, and green plastic playground equipment in small park under Claiborne Expressway overpass in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Hunter's Field playground sits directly beneath the Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans' 7th Ward. | City of New Orleans / New Orleans Recreation Development Commission

In a story for NPR, Drew Hawkins describes the toxic legacy of a New Orleans highway that mars a neighborhood in the city’s 7th Ward.

As an effort to reconnect the neighborhood and provide public space, the city built a playground dubbed Hunter’s Field directly under a Claiborne Expressway overpass. Nine years later, “Children don't come here to play.”

The park was part of a city-state effort to rectify some of the damage of the expressway, which decimated a once-vibrant community corridor. But “That plan wouldn't move the freeway out of the neighborhood, but would pay for repairs and maintenance work on the existing stretch of highway, and to try to spruce up the desolate area underneath the highway by building a public market and performance space.” Local activist and urban designer Amy Stelly calls the public market component “misguided and ridiculous,” saying that “It's not a wise decision to build anything under here” because of the noise and pollution created by the roadway above.

The organization Stelly works with, the Claiborne Avenue Alliance, is hoping to prove their point with science by collecting data on harmful pollutants and noise to call for the complete removal of the expressway. For advocates like the Alliance, “Removal is the only cure.”

Sunday, December 17, 2023 in NPR

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