A new Senate bill includes $10 billion for cities that are considering removing urban freeways that could undo damage these projects inflicted on vulnerable communities decades ago.
Critics say these urban highway projects, often including sections of elevated roadways, were forced upon neighborhoods that lacked political clout during construction of the Interstate Highway System. Many of these roadway projects razed swaths of downtowns and waterfronts often inhabited by minority and low-income people.
The bill provides $10 billion to potentially alter or remove these roadways. It would also help pay for plans to redevelop strips of land reclaimed from their removal.
The concept was demonstrated when San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway was removed in 1991 after heavy damage resulting from a 1989 earthquake. That project freed 100 acres of waterfront property for development. Another more recent example is in Rochester, New York, where a segment of a sunken expressway that encircles the city’s downtown was removed, and the city is now considering removal of the rest of the loop.