Federal grant to help decommission highway, restore Detroit neighborhoods
A nearly $105 million federal grant will help pay for decommissioning an interstate highway, replacing it with a street-level boulevard, and restoring two historically black neighborhoods in Detroit.
A lot of asphalt across the country rests atop former businesses, vibrant family lives, and lost opportunities to build generational wealth. They've been paved over by interstate highways.
I-375 in Detroit is one of them. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that the federal grant represents a chance to help right a wrong.
“The purpose of transportation is to connect,” he said. “But we have seen examples in many communities, including here, where an infrastructure decision serves to divide.”
I-375 splintered the Black Bottom residential area and the Paradise Valley entertainment district when it was constructed in the 1950s and early 1960s.
“We’re not raising these issues to make everybody feel bad,” said Buttigieg. “We’re raising these issues to insist that they be fixed, and it’s why … this isn’t just a history lesson. This is $100 million to make it better.”
The reconstruction plan includes raising a stretch of highway that currently sinks below ground level and re-creating it as a boulevard with walkways, housing, and businesses.
Buttigieg was joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“We cannot change the past, but what we can do is work together to build a more equitable future,” said Whitmer. “And that’s exactly what we’re doing today. That’s what this is really all about.”
The next step is to begin planning the project, with actual construction expected to begin in 2027. The work is still not fully funded. A Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson said talks will begin soon to find regional partners and also to ask the state Legislature for funding.