The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded $1.5 billion in Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants to highway, multimodal freight, and rail projects across the country. In the Michigan Contractor & Builder area, a $104.6 million INFRA grant was awarded to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for the I-375 Community Reconnection Project in Detroit, Michigan.
More than 50 years ago, prominent Black neighborhoods Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were demolished to make way for the construction of I-375. Several blocks of commercial and residential buildings were also leveled. The new interstate split Hasting Street in two and created a barrier between the central business district in Detroit and the neighborhoods to the east. This resulted in decades of underinvestment and a lack of opportunity for the predominantly Black communities on the other side of the freeway.
Nearly three generations later, the I-375 Community Reconnection Project proposes to reconnect the city. Led by MDOT in partnership with the City of Detroit, the project would provide easier access to better jobs, services, and quality of life to the residents of adjacent areas of persistent poverty.
“We must take a closer look at the unjust legacy of so many of our freeways,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said. “This includes I-375, which paved through two prosperous Black neighborhoods decades ago, displacing 130,000 people, hundreds of small businesses, churches, and more. Now, we must build up our state's infrastructure with equity at the core. While we cannot change the past, we must work harder to build a more just future.”
“I-375 bulldozed two vibrant Black neighborhoods and is part of an unjust and painful chapter in our history,” said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. “Instead of dividing our communities, we now have a chance to reconnect them and take a big step toward building a better future. Thanks to this major federal investment and commitments by MDOT and the City of Detroit, this project has the potential to create economic opportunities for our local businesses and residents.”
The I-375 Community Reconnection Project plans to provide the community better access to jobs and services by reconnecting the neighborhoods that were divided by the current highway design with an at-grade boulevard. Other benefits include reducing operating and maintenance costs for the improved roadway and improving safety by using innovative technologies for traffic incident management at intersections.
Expected to begin in 2025 and finish in 2027, the project would realign the ramps and freeway near I-375, convert I-375 to a slower speed boulevard, install calming traffic measures, remove weaving and merging areas along I-375 and I-75, remove the Jefferson Avenue curve, and incorporate LED lighting in the project area. The project would also remove 15 old bridges and two stormwater runoff pump stations, rehabilitate one remaining stormwater runoff pump station, construct wider sidewalks and separated buffered cycle tracks with protected and signalized pedestrian crossings, and reconnect neighborhood streets to the boulevard in the project area.
“This investment is going to make a big difference for families and businesses in downtown Detroit by reconnecting neighborhoods to key economic hubs and improving the quality of life for area residents,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters. “I advocated for this project to be funded because it will not only spur economic growth and opportunity, but also help the city modernize critical infrastructure along the I-375 corridor, improve access to public transit, and address deep-rooted social and environmental justice concerns.”