Monday, August 02, 2021

Segregating Highways

Urban Labs has been exploring how the construction of highways through city neighborhoods in the 20th Century consistently involved the destruction of thriving black businesses and communities. The legacy of these highways has been to divide and permanently blight many traditional black neighborhoods in America's cities.

The Interstate Highway System was championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and was first authorized by the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. A year earlier, in 1955, the General Location of National System of Interstate Highways, informally known as the Yellow Book, was published. This mapped out what was to become of the Interstate System. In 1956 the American Automobile Association published the National system of interstate and defense highways : as of June, 1958, a map of the planned interstate network. 

The building of the highways through city neighborhoods was often coupled with the idea of demolishing 'blighted' neighborhoods. In effect what this meant in reality was that when it came to decide where the highways were to be built time and again it was decided it was best to build them through predominantly black neighborhoods. In What It Looks Like to Reconnect Black Communities Torn Apart by Highways City Lab has mapped out how in city after city highways bulldozed their way through black communities, destroying local businesses and creating 'border vacuums' - areas cut-off from resources and jobs.

The City Labs article also looks at how Biden's infrastructure plan, which has allocated $1 billion to reconnect communities, might be used to improve these urban communities blighted in the 20th Century by the car and the construction of huge highways through city neighborhoods.

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