U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx has recently called out freeways and how they were rammed through poor neighborhoods.
That certainly happened in Detroit — and it was intentional.
According to the 1945 Detroit Expressway and Transit Plan, “Genuine, large-scale slum clearance to let in sunlight and air can be accomplished by opening up wide arteries and often can be hitched to an expressway project by going just a little out of the way at an inconsequential time loss.”
This was reflected in the expressway route recommendations:
- Grand River Expressway (Now I-96) “Through much of its length it would take land in substandard areas where there is acute need for the incidental improvements to the expressway.”
- Lodge Expressway (M-10) “[It] would lay the backbone for the rehabilitation of a neighborhood that badly needs it. The alignment has been judiciously planned to fit in with the layout of the proposed Jeffries housing project.”
- Hastings Expressway (I-75/I-375) “[It] would pass through substandard areas… Acquisition of the right-of-way actually would constitute a slum clearance project for much of its 6.8 miles of length and construction of the expressway would invite and justify private development of wide scope along it.”
The plan also called for non-motorized improvements that were never realized.
“Walks and promenades with benches should be fitted into the landscaped slopes wherever possible. Bicycle paths could be included for some stretches at comparatively little additional expense. These features would be very popular and would make the expressways useful for Detroiters and visitors who are without automobiles.”
So, we’re excited to hear Secretary Foxx talk about righting these wrongs and we think the Inner Circle Greenway has a role. Over its 26 miles, the greenway has eight improved non-motorized freeway crossings.
One of the major connectors is in Northwest Detroit where the proposed greenway crosses the Davison entrance ramp and I-96. We’ve found DTE aerial photographs from 1967 and 1997 that show the before and after affects of I-96 in this area. By moving the center slide left and right, one can see how schools, parks, local businesses and neighborhoods were severely divided.
While we have no delusions that the Inner Circle Greenway can mitigate all of the expressways impacts on Detroit neighborhoods, it can be valuable start.