Dorothy Wiley sat for days in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans knowing her home and her church were underwater. She was left without a place to live after Hurricane Katrina. But somehow, Dorothy endured the horrors of the hurricane and found herself in a brand new home. By the grace of God and help from the community, she relocated to Allendale in Shreveport. The home was a result of the “Building on Higher Ground” project, a nonprofit partnership between The Fuller Center for Housing, Shreveport-Bossier Community Renewal, and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Louisiana, to build houses in Shreveport for evacuees left homeless by Katrina. This gave Dorothy hope, but now she finds herself in limbo as she waits to see how the local officials will handle Allendale. The I-49 connector can’t be built through Allendale for at least another 3 years, so now is the time to invest in the people of Allendale.
Today, freeways are causing nothing but harm for communities all over America. They are destroying neighborhoods and their rich history without bringing any long-term benefits to the table. Instead, they are saddling taxpayers with the maintenance bill.
The root of the problem
Why are inner-city freeways specifically targeting Black neighborhoods nationwide? It is apparent that systematic racism is inherent in the pattern of destroying these communities. According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, L.A. freeways have had a history of segregating and destroying Black neighborhoods. The article specifically mentions when the Santa Monica Freeway was moved so that it ran directly through an African American middle-class neighborhood of Sugar Hill and completely destroyed it. And you can find dozens of articles of cities all over America where this is the case.
Freeways are the underlying culprit to systemic issues impacting education, community, policing, and unhealthy living conditions. Interstates don’t improve cities but make them poorer. Through traffic belongs on the outskirts, and local traffic belongs in the city centers. So, what is the solution we need to address these systemic issues?
Smart cities are reclaiming their inner-city interstates leading them to increase community growth and renewal. A few examples include Klyde Warren Park and Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. The citizens in Dallas reclaimed the former inner-city interstate and transformed it into Klyde Warren Park: a place for pedestrians and community events. The park has become a place of economic growth and community outreach. This year, NOLA locals have started a movement to save Claiborne Avenue in New Orleans. The area used to be a center for commerce and culture until a federal interstate cut it off from the rest of the city in the 1960s. Now, community members are calling attention to the area’s demise in hopes of reclaiming the street.
These are just a couple of examples of people coming together to help save areas destroyed by freeways. In all of these cases, the solution is an investment in pedestrian and biking infrastructure because it leads to population growth and health.
Now that the immediate fear of I-49 being built through Allendale is no longer there. We must regroup and catch the attention of our local politicians and community members so Allendale can become like these examples. If we can reclaim the neighborhood and boost the members of the community that are trying to make positive change, then maybe we can save this neighborhood and its rich history.
The threat for Allendale residents may not be here today or tomorrow, but it still looms in their future. We must invest in the people of Allendale because it will benefit everyone in Shreveport and give us hope for a better future.