News | February 21, 2023

Dividing Lines: Highways’ history of displacement and pollution

Highways and access to transportation play an outsized role in determining economic, health, housing, and education outcomes. For most of our nation’s history, these outcomes have been worse for people of color, regardless of factors such as income and level of education completed.  

Intentionally left out of decision-making and land use decisions, Black and low-income communities  have historically been specifically targeted for highway construction. In fact, urban renewal efforts and the building of the interstate highway system as we know it today were intentional steps to lock Black people in inner cities further away from suburbs that could be easily reached by cars, but not public transit and buses.  

The role transportation plays in our daily lives continues to be understated, but localities are increasingly seeking solutions as they search for ways to increase equity and right wrongs of the past and seek equitable ways to fight climate change.  

SELC seeks to make advances in the conversation surrounding highways and the harm they continue to inflict on overburdened communities by working with decision makers at all levels as they pursue transportation policy and funding. We also work with neighbors facing new and expanding highways to keep communities and their cultures intact.  

In our newest video, we look at the historical impact highways have had on communities. This is the first of a two-part video series looking at the harm highways have historically caused Black communities.