While the interstate highway system changed the face of the country, there was an ugly sacrifice to get the system built. Hundreds of thousands of Black Americans across the country were displaced due to highway projects. In Baltimore, the Associated Press reported Thursday, federal funds are being spent to try and help fix what was lost there.
During the 1960s and 1970s, construction began on a portion of highway in Baltimore meant to extend Interstate 70. Blacks that lived in the area weren’t given much of a choice if they wanted to leave their homes behind because of the construction. Officials used eminent domain to kick them out and demolish their houses. Over 1,000 families were displaced. And it was all for a highway that was never even completed.
Wealthier neighborhoods successfully lobbied to stop construction of the section due to environmental concerns in the 1970s, and the highway became known as a “Highway To Nowhere.” It’s so short it takes just under two minutes to drive from one end to the other. It now divides the neighborhoods that are left, cutting them off from jobs and other city services.
With federal grant funding from the infrastructure bill passed by Congress in late 2021, officials will receive money that will allow them to create a plan to redevelop the 1.4-mile stretch of highway, something residents have said is badly needed as they have called for investments in the community to help curb poverty and crime.
“For over 50 years, this callous and discriminatory structure has caused generational damage to our community — displacing 1,500 residents, shuttering businesses and destroying homes — and this is a substantial step in starting that healing process,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement.
For more on the highway’s history, check out this feature from WYPR from 2021.
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