Letter to the Editor of The Advocate

This letter was published on Nola.com March 6, 2023


Editorial: The ‘racist’ road is needed for Interstate 49” ( reveals a bias towards conventional wisdom and regressive ideas that have harmed Louisiana. Highway expansion no longer fits best planning practices or the current zeitgeist. History has shown that investing money to connect cities with highways has worked. And history has also shown that cutting up cities with urban freeways at thirty times the cost is bad idea. The Claiborne Expressway in New Orleans, cited by President Biden as a barrier in a community needing redress, is a painful example of that bad idea. Claiborne should serve as a warning to all who think the extension of I-49 will bring prosperity rather than destruction. Moreover, the proposed extension will be a barrier to the neighboring Black communities.

The Advocate’s staff doesn’t recognize that urban highways follow the boundaries of redlined neighborhoods. Redlining segregated neighborhoods; promoted separate and unequal; and intentionally created economic inequality by denying minorities access to capital and opportunities. The practice also gave governments the power to declare neighborhoods slums and designate them as appropriate places for highways.

Furthermore, The Advocate’s staff didn’t check the highway cult’s promises of prosperity against the actual outcomes of disinvestment. In cities like New Orleans, the outcomes have equaled a slow-motion carpet-bombing. Lafayette would be a victim, not an exception.

Seeing the harm and developing better solutions requires holistic thinking. Nationally, groups like Louisiana’s 4-Corners Coalition for Transportation Planning Reform are learning, checking, and advocating for long overdue reforms to transportation planning. We think it would be more beneficial to use any state funding earmarked for this project for safer bridges and to improve the health and education of citizens.

Group think is powerfully blinding. The Advocate should help to create a better Louisiana and not be a pawn for business as usual.