How the federal government could help kill highways

By Max Reyes, Bloomberg CityLab, February 1, 2021

“The Economic Justice Act, a spending package worth over $435 billion, includes a $10 billion pilot program that would provide funds for communities to examine transit infrastructure that has divided them along racial and economic lines and potentially alter or remove them. It would also help pay for plans to redevelop reclaimed land.

“‘It’s the first time that we’ve seen this in terms of highway removal, this sort of prioritization of people first and the [impacts] and outcomes on their lives,’ says Ben Crowther, a program manager at the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). His organization helped to write the text of the bill’s highway program.

“The current national focus on racial equity and climate change topics, taken with the fact that many urban highways built in the 1960s are now reaching the end of their life cycles, make this moment a crucial one for a conversation around transportation equity and highway removal, according to Sara Zewde, an assistant professor at Harvard University and principal of design firm Studio Zewde.

“To make a federal highway-conversion program effective, California-based urban planner Destiny Thomas says a variety of ‘safety net supports’ would be necessary, including the involvement of social workers, mental health experts, and housing advocates. She emphasized that the bill, if passed, would be only the first step in addressing inequity within transportation and transportation infrastructure, and could even be an early component of a reparations package.”

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