Baltimore City officials are reaching out to the community members in West Baltimore ahead of the city’s ambitious goal to raze and reimagine the westside’s infamous “Highway to Nowhere.”
“The Highway to Nowhere” was built in the 1970s with a goal of better connecting the city to the suburbs, but its initial construction tore through several then-middle-class Black neighborhoods. Opposition from residents in the suburbs and other parts of the city eventually halted the highway project, creating a lasting concrete scar on West Baltimore.
The city held the first of several listening sessions with community members this week. Officials say a formal plan should be announced this spring.
“We know that now is the time for catalytic investment in this community, a community that is majority Black that has disproportionately bore the burden of inequitable infrastructure investments of the past,” said Corren Johnson, interim director of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.
“The construction of the Route 40 Expressway through West Baltimore in the 1970s caused significant displacement of families. And the impact of these wounds have been endured for decades for way too long.”
With local, state and federal funding anticipated, the project is expected to cost upwards of $2 billion. The Highway to Nowhere project follows a trend of East Coast cities such as Boston restoring urban areas that were affected by massive highway construction projects in the mid-20th century.
City Councilmen Eric Costello, James Torrence and John Bullock, who represents the area, attended the first listening session Wednesday.
Cydne Kimbrough, a grants manager for the Department of Transportation, said the project’s mandate will be a broad one that could include additional green space and new public transit access.
“It’s more than just a transportation program. Because when you split the community up, there can be other implications. There’ll be health implications. There will be social and economic implications,” Kimbrough said.
This isn’t the first time the city has tried to address the Highway to Nowhere. Kimbrough said the city will look to past plans for inspiration as well, but stressed the need for West Baltimore residents to have a voice in the process.
“This process is something that community members must be involved in. It’s something that we cannot do on our own. We want you to be a part of this. You should be a part of this process,” Kimbrough said.
Too often we hear of programs to reinvent or revitalize urban areas but the efforts often fall short of helping those most affected by so-called Progress.
Citizens and their local government must be More Vocal in holding any and all responsible for changing the “landscape” of said communities. Consider all elements past and future and how its impact will impact schools, grocery stores, health care, safety, as well as the homeless and indigent. No more false promises but real Progress, promising the potential for actual job growth should be the key in any future planning ..
Leave a comment