Detroit highway to become boulevard to address wrongs to Black communities

FILE PHOTO: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing in Washington

By David Shepardson

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Detroit interstate highway whose construction devastated two historically Black neighborhoods will be turned into an urban boulevard - one of 26 major infrastructure projects that will be newly funded by the Biden administration.

The U.S. Transportation Department has awarded $104.7 million to replace the one-mile I-375 freeway.

Its construction in the 1950s and 1960s paved through two prosperous Black neighborhoods, displacing people, small businesses and churches. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has put the number of people displaced at 130,000.

The funding, aimed at spurring economic development, will go towards realigning the ramps near I-375, installing calming traffic measures and wider sidewalks as well as reconnecting neighborhood streets to the boulevard.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said other impacted communities could use government funding to address the harms of highways.

"Creating the kind of streetscape that this community envisions is going to be a great future for how the streets and roads of this city ought to look and it's important because it addresses the damage done to a mainly Black community through the gash that was created that was I-375," he added.

The United States planned more than 40,000 miles of interstate highways in the 1950s. Many like I-375 were routed through historically Black and poor neighborhoods.

The Transportation Department said on Thursday it would be awarding $1.5 billion for the 26 projects including I-375.

These include $150 million for a new toll road and port of entry facility in Mesa, California along the Mexican border, $110 million to redevelop one of the largest food distribution centers in the country in New York and $70 million to rehabilitate a more than 100-year-old railroad track in Chicago.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)