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$105 M grant would help decommission highway, restore Detroit neighborhoods

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking at a podium, Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the background.
Rick Pluta
/
Michigan Public Radio
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Governor Gretchen Whitmer announce a federal grant to start the process of converting I-375 in Detroit to a neighborhood boulevard. I-375 split Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood and Paradise Valley entertainment district when it was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s.

A nearly 105-million-dollar federal grant will help pay for decommissioning a federal highway and help restore two historically black neighborhoods in Detroit.

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 on top of graveyards of businesses, family life and opportunities to build generational wealth lost to the construction of interstate highways.

I-375 in Detroit is one of them. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday said 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-create it as a boulevard with walkways, housing and businesses.

Buttigieg was joined by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and 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 project is still not fully funded. A Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman said talks will begin soon to find regional partners and also to ask the Legislature for funding.