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FACTBOX: How Biden's infrastructure law could benefit these 5 U.S. highways

by David Sherfinski | @dsherfinski | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 24 February 2022 10:42 GMT

An overlook facing downtown Baltimore shows all the overpasses required to connect neighborhoods like Harlem Park and Franklin Square in Baltimore, U.S., on February 4 2022. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Sean Dackermann

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Following Biden's commitment to provide at least $1 billion in financing aimed at reconnecting divided communities, these five highway areas are prime targets for activists

By David Sherfinski

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United States has set aside $1 billion to finance ambitious highway projects that restore “community connectivity,” offering help to minority neighborhoods scarred by road schemes of the last century.

The pot of money - intended to revitalize low-income areas - could help flatten or mend infrastructure that divided communities, forcing residents to move out and businesses to close.

Here are five highways where activists say reconstruction could change lives as well as roads:

Interstate 10 - El Paso, Texas

El Paso, Texas has just won a $900,000 grant to help build a deck over Interstate 10, a sunken road that separates the city, which sits near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The deck would house a green space and entertainment venues under a plan “intended to remove barriers of opportunity for people of color,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Interstate 75/85 - Atlanta, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia has also won a $900,000 grant for “The Stitch” - a project intended to reconnect areas divided by an Interstate 75/85 connector through “pedestrian-oriented, multi-modal streets,” according to the federal government.

The project is supposed to create 14 acres of green space and spur redevelopment and affordable housing.

Interstate 95 - Richmond, Virginia

Interstate 95, the main north-south throughway running along the East Coast, wreaked havoc on the largely Black Jackson Ward neighborhood when it was constructed in the 1950s.

The city is looking at building a deck to reconnect the divided area, and Biden's money could accelerate progress.

"It's a noble start," said local congressman A. Donald McEachin. "Without the money, there would be no need to even talk about it ... it would be nothing more than a pipe dream.”

Interstate 81 - Syracuse, New York

The state of New York is eyeing a $2 billion project to overhaul Interstate 81, which runs through Syracuse, about 250 miles from New York City.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wants the old, raised highway replaced with green spaces and new pedestrian and bike access.

“We now have to take the time to correct the wrongs of the past,” she said last month.

Claiborne Expressway/Interstate 10 - New Orleans, Louisiana

The Claiborne Expressway, an elevated portion of which runs through New Orleans' historic Treme neighborhood, is seen as a prime example of a freeway that split communities.

Since its construction in the 1960s, the section of I-10 running above Claiborne Avenue has decimated what used to be the center of the city's Black community, according to Amy Stelly, one of the leading local advocates for an overhaul.

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(Reporting by David Sherfinski. Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)