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  • (upbeat music)

  • - [Narrator] Democrats led by President Biden say

  • now is the time to build back better.

  • - The American Jobs Plan will modernize 20,000 miles

  • on highways, roads, and main street that are in difficult,

  • difficult shape right now.

  • - [Narrator] But leaders don't just want to build and update

  • roads, in some cases they want highways torn down.

  • Democrats would like to provide funding to tear

  • down highways that had a damaging effect

  • on urban minority communities.

  • - Federal funds created

  • the damage done here and federal funds should be used

  • to help remedy it.

  • - [Narrator] Activists in cities like Tampa, Austin, Texas,

  • New Orleans, Detroit, and Tulsa, Oklahoma are calling

  • for the removal of highways that they say segregate

  • communities and harm minorities.

  • Leaders say there are many more examples like this road

  • in West Baltimore.

  • This is the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway,

  • Baltimore locals call it the highway to nowhere

  • and some policymakers want to tear it down.

  • The road cuts through 1.4 miles of the city

  • providing a speedy route for cars traveling east to west.

  • Like other parts of the country's Interstate System,

  • the road was built to provide fast access for traffic

  • from ports and downtown offices to the suburbs,

  • but locals like Baltimore City Councilman John Bullock

  • say it's a scar running through the city's west side.

  • - The reality is that you did have intact, businesses,

  • churches, families, community networks that were literally

  • torn asunder with this highway going through.

  • And yes, there are examples of cities across the country

  • and Baltimore is no different that during urban renewal

  • you saw the disproportionate effects in neighborhoods

  • that had African-American populations.

  • - [Narrator] Planning for this road dates back to the 1950s

  • when President Eisenhower called for cities to build

  • better connections to the Interstate System.

  • His goal was to give the military, traders, and commuters

  • quick routes through the nation.

  • In Baltimore the first round of demolition displaced

  • hundreds of families,

  • that sparked a wave of opposition from locals

  • like then City Councilwoman Barbara Mikulski who would go on

  • to represent Maryland in Congress as a Democrat.

  • - [Barbara] New government under eminent domain tucked

  • their house and cleared that land without any relocation

  • benefits but they have a fair market value in showing.

  • - [Narrator] Senator Chris Van Hollen is Mikulski's

  • successor.

  • - What you see here is a part of the highway that was built

  • decades ago but was never completed because Senator Mikulski

  • and other activists rallied to stop it,

  • and they were successful at stopping the highway

  • but not before this one and a half mile segment

  • had been built displacing over 900 people from their homes,

  • splitting an African American community that had been stable

  • and vibrant and so here you see this scar.

  • - [Narrator] Since then researchers have found that highways

  • create challenging conditions within cities.

  • Data collected in Baltimore suggests that air quality

  • is poorest and the sections of the city that are near

  • Interstate connections.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency says that poor air

  • quality can worsen health conditions like asthma.

  • The Interstate also contributed to out migration,

  • not only in Baltimore but in cities across the country

  • like Detroit.

  • Economists say that the highway building in majority Black

  • Detroit contributed to the city's economic decline.

  • Maintenance costs for these roads continue to weigh

  • on the city which filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

  • This form of structural inequity is what leaders

  • in Washington say they are trying to address.

  • - Too often investments have failed to meet the needs

  • of marginalized communities left behind.

  • - [Narrator] Developers today say that tearing down parts

  • of the Interstate System could correct a wave

  • of past failures.

  • One 2018 review of West Baltimore calls for the demolition

  • of two bridges at the Eastern stub of the highway

  • opening more land for development.

  • The plan says the new space could be used

  • for athletic fields, parks, and a new retail center.

  • The panel also called for the rehabilitation of vacant lots

  • in nearby row homes and wider sidewalks for pedestrians.

  • If Congress passes an infrastructure bill

  • the federal funding could help turn some

  • of these ideas into reality.

  • West Baltimore Community Organizer, Ashiah Parker

  • says she would welcome changes in her part of the city

  • but she wants to make sure the community has a seat

  • at the table.

  • - We definitely don't want our federal partners putting

  • up large condos that people aren't able,

  • well that current residents aren't able to occupy.

  • And then we also wanna make sure that economic development

  • is done.

  • So produce stores are other types of small businesses

  • for people who are already in a neighborhood

  • that can utilize.

  • - [Narrator] Other residents said that they would like

  • for the government to focus on rehabilitating homes

  • in the area before focusing on the roads.

  • The national movement to tear down highways is picking up

  • steam as leaders in Congress from both sides of the aisle

  • signal that they're open to the idea.

  • The movement got a boost from President Biden

  • when he called for $20 billion to redress inequities created

  • by past investments in transportation.

  • That's just one part of the bigger American Jobs Plan

  • which the White House says would cost $1.7 trillion.

  • Senate Republicans now say that they are open

  • to a nearly $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

  • In short, both parties want to invest more

  • in infrastructure but they're far apart on the details

  • of how it should be done.

  • Republican senators say they're open to using federal funds

  • to remove highways but they want to leave the decision

  • to state lawmakers.

  • - There are multiple examples of poor planning decisions

  • that have led to adverse consequences for specific

  • communities.

  • None of us denying that and I think we all agree

  • they should be rectified.

  • I believe it should be done at the local

  • and state level where decision-makers are closest

  • to the people and able to make a balanced decision.

  • - [Narrator] The call to fund highway removal breaks

  • from years of American transportation philosophy.

  • If a bill materializes highway tear downs could unfold

  • in cities across the country.

  • (upbeat music)

(upbeat music)

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Why Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Calls for Highway Teardowns | WSJ

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/01
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