Transportation Secretary: Interstate Highway System Targeted Black, Low-Income Neighborhoods

Penny Starr | April 29, 2016 | 2:43pm EDT
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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (AP Photo)

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx wants to make the nation’s roadways more “inclusive,” according to articles published by National Public Radio (NPR) and Think Progress, the reporting arm of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP).

NPR reported Thursday that Foxx, who was raised by his grandparents in Charlotte, N.C. and became the city’s mayor before President Barack Obama appointed him to Transportation secretary, said highways were designed to deliberately hurt certain residents.

“I didn’t realize it as a kid,” Foxx said of the interstate highways snaking through that state. “I didn’t think about it as economic barriers, psychological barriers but they were, and the choices of where that infrastructure was placed in my community as it turns out weren’t unique to Charlotte.”

The NPR article titled, “Secretary Foxx Pushes To Make Transportation Projects More Inclusive,” cited the Sheridan Expressway in the Bronx, which links two interstate highways in the state.

Reporter Brian Naylor said urban planners back in the 1950s and ‘60s made “deliberate decisions to route [highways] through low-income neighborhoods.”

“The values of the 1950s are still embedded in our built environment,” Foxx said. “And the prejudices and the notions of who’s in and who’s out are still part of the built environment and we can do something about it.”

The state of New York, NPR reported, has approved spending $98 million to transform the 1.2-mile Sheridan Expressway into a “boulevard with crosswalks and bike paths,” Naylor said.

Last month, Foxx spoke at CAP, and Think Progress wrote about his remarks in an article posted March 31, entitled, “Top Infrastructure Official Explains How America Used Highways To Destroy Black Neighborhoods.”

“It’s time for America to reckon with the role that highway projects too often play in ripping apart underprivileged communities around the country, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday at the Center for American Progress,” the article stated.

The Think Progress article cited the efforts by the city of St. Louis in the early 1980s to expand the runway network for Lambert International Airport and claimed officials used “arm-twisting” to buy out the middle class black homeowners that resided in Kinloch, Mo., where the new roads were constructed.

The article said the population of that town dropped from 4,000 to less than 300.

“I think the interesting thing about that is where they went,” Foxx said in telling the story. “Many of them, most of them, ended up moving to a town called Ferguson.”

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