The U.S. Transportation Department is directing more than $100 million of funding to reshape downtown Detroit where the I-375 freeway now stands.
Officials say removing the freeway will also help re-dress some of the wrongs done to city residents in the area decades ago. I-375 sliced through majority-Black neighborhoods in the 1950s and ’60s
It forced out hundreds of Black-owned businesses and destroyed the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley residential districts.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says plans to turn the sunken freeway into a pedestrian-friendly boulevard is a step towards stitching communities there back together.
“Sometimes fixing the damn roads means facing the repercussions of how the roads were originally built,” said Buttigieg. “Who was included in that process and who was not? Who was empowered and who was displaced?”
Officials estimate the infusion of federal money should allow construction to begin in 2025, though the overall project is still not completely funded. Plans include widening sidewalks and removing 15 bridges.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says those building the freeway purposely targeted majority Black areas.
“The motivations in wiping out Paradise Valley and Black Bottom in the ’50s are well known. But nobody could have imagined the pain would still last 70 years later,” Duggan said.
Photo Credit: Associated Press