Rethinking a Detroit freeway and honoring the past

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On the latest Talking Michigan Transportation podcast, a conversation about the ongoing process to rethink the 1-mile I-375 freeway in Detroit and consider other alternatives.

First, Margaret Barondess, manager of the environmental section at the Michigan Department Transportation, talks about the ongoing discussions that could reconnect neighborhoods near downtown Detroit, severed decades ago when I-375 was built. She recounts the history and environmental justice issues shaping the current discussion.

Later, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist joins the podcast to offer his perspective on the project as a native of Detroit and someone who spent part of his childhood in the neighborhood previously disrupted by the freeway.

While discussions about restoring the I-375 corridor to an urban boulevard date back several years, the conversation has added resonance because U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has put an emphasis on connectivity and rethinking freeways.

In the wake of another catastrophic rainstorm that caused flooding across the Detroit area, Barondess explains the history behind building recessed freeways and the benefits: keeping the city street system intact, needing less property for the right of way, and limiting the noise in neighborhoods.

During his segment, the lieutenant governor talks about what he learned from his parents and others about the residents and businesses displaced by the freeway in the Blackbottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. He explains why he’s pleased that the Biden administration wants to create equitable communities and restore opportunities for prosperity. He recounts the wealth lost in what was one of the most thriving black business districts in the country.

Other references:

The Detroit News (subscription) https://www.detroitnews.com/in-depth/news/local/detroit-city/2021/03/23/interstate-375-detroit-racism-black-bottom-paradise-valley-mdot-aretha-franklin/4715658001/?build=native-web_i_t

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/transportation/crossroads/article/Houston-isn-t-only-Texas-city-thinking-about-7987023.php

https://www.nbcnews.com/specials/america-highways-inequality/
Podcast photo: Director Ajegba, Mayor Duggan, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, and Gov. Whitmer tour and discuss I-375 improvement project.

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