The $1 trillion U.S. infrastructure law enacted last week includes $1 billion to reconnect communities that were divided to make room for freeways. Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, two predominantly African American neighborhoods, were razed in the late 1950s and early 1960s to build I-375, which created a barrier between the downtown and neighborhoods to the east.
Construction is not planned to start until 2027, after redesign work is complete.
“Now, nearly three generations later, we have an opportunity to eliminate this obstacle and provide easier access to better jobs, services, and quality of life to the residents of adjacent areas of persistent poverty,” she wrote.
The governor said I-375 — which opened in 1964 — the interchange with I-75 and various bridges are outdated and in need of modernization.
The state wants to convert the highway, which connects I-75 directly to Jefferson Avenue, to a six-lane boulevard at street level.
Whitmer, in a letter inviting Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to join her to tour the area, called the I-375 improvement project a “perfect candidate” for the new federal Reconnecting Communities program. She did not specify how much funding is needed.
The infrastructure deal includes an extra $500 million a year for Michigan roads, bridges and public transit. The state and municipalities also can apply for a portion of multibillion-dollar competitive grant programs.
During Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, the State Transportation Commission approved five-year plans that included the reconstruction of I-375 starting in 2022. But after Whitmer took office, the panel removed the project from new five-year programs created by the Michigan Department of Transportation, following the authorization of $3.5 billion in borrowing to rebuild state highways and bridges.
MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson said the agency “will continue to look for additional funds in the hope of expediting the project.” Design work will begin this winter. “The design will be advanced over the next year so that we are in good position to take advantage of additional funds,” he said. “That includes exploring how the infrastructure bill can advance the construction schedule. MDOT will continue to explore all options.”
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