They Want to Put a Highway in Lead Belly’s Backyard

Published January 29, 2021, in the Wall Street Journal

A plan to extend I-49 through a historically black neighborhood has divided Shreveport, La.

ARTICLE PREVIEW: Fights over whether to build freeways through city neighborhoods may seem like a thing of the past. It has been 65 years since Jane Jacobs successfully rallied opposition to Robert Moses’s plans for a highway through Manhattan’s Washington Square Park and 60 years since the Chrysler Freeway sliced through Detroit. But a version of this old fight is dividing Shreveport, La.

At issue is an $800 million plan to extend a 3-mile stretch of Interstate 49 through the historic African-American neighborhood of Allendale, where a few old shotgun houses, once synonymous with black poverty, still stand. The neighborhood is still poor. Fifty-four homes, some of them new, owner-occupied structures built by a national nonprofit, and three historic black church buildings stand in the path of the proposed extension. A bipartisan coalition of local, state and federal representatives have joined forces with the Shreveport business community to target the properties for seizure via the government’s eminent-domain authority.

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