How Freeway Projects Impact Climate Resilience

In addition to displacement and public health impacts, highway expansions can also make communities less resilient to flooding and other climate-related disasters.

2 minute read

April 25, 2024, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Freeway sign with "severe weather - use caution" over multilane freeway in rainy weather.

F Armstrong Photo / Adobe Stock

In a blog post for Transportation for America, Mehr Mukhtar describes how the U.S. Interstate Highway System has negatively impacted communities. “These legacies are not abstract; they have tangible effects in terms of pollution, population displacement, and environmental degradation,” Mukhtar writes.

To illustrate the point, Mukhtar uses the case of Shiloh, Alabama, a predominantly Black rural community where the expansion of a local highway led to increased flooding impacts. “Flooding has affected the structural integrity of homes and is raising alarming health concerns with residents reporting the appearance of mold. Physical damages and rising maintenance issues have forced the Shiloh community to contend with the difficult reality of investing in expensive repair projects or leaving their homes.”

Shiloh, like other communities, has been fighting for recognition and resources using tools like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In the case of Shiloh, “Their efforts culminated in an ongoing civil rights investigation from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and a visit from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in early April of this year. But so far, no real relief has been found.”

Now, funding from programs like Reconnecting Communities must be used strategically to begin redressing historical harms. According to Mukhtar, “Funding is being moved towards emissions-increasing roadway widenings at a critical moment in the climate crisis when our dollars should be spent towards robust public and alternative transportation options. Our transportation system is steeped in environmental racism and continues to function as a driver of inequality.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Transportation for America

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