The future of the I-375 boulevard project and the history behind it

I-375 cleaved apart community of Black Bottom

The future of the I-375 boulevard project and the history behind it
The future of the I-375 boulevard project and the history behind it

DETROIT – A mile-long stretch of freeway leading into Downtown Detroit has long been a point of controversy dating back to when it was built.

Thousands of cars drive the stretch of freeway everyday either heading into, or leaving Downtown Detroit. It runs through an area called Black Bottom, which once stretched from Lafayette Park to Hastings. When it was built I-375 cleaved apart and all but destroyed the vibrant Black community of Black Bottom.

Read: Remembering Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood

Historian Jamon Jordan with Black Scroll Network for History and Tours said many don’t know the history behind the busy freeway, or the area that surrounded it.

Jordan said the influential area had Black-owned businesses, restaurants and movie theaters.

“I-375 was built due to the 1956 Federal Interstate Highway Act. Many of these interstate highways would destroy, disrupt and wipeout African American business districts and African American residential communities,” Jordan said.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced that there are plans to pave over I-375 and turn it into a Boulevard. That would make the area more residential and business-friendly.

However, MDOT is still waiting for federal approval to begin the project. The project has been discussed for years and wouldn’t even begin until 2027.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told NBC’s Halle Jackson that honoring Black Bottom is a priority for her. Jackson then asked Detroit residents if the repavement project was enough.

“There are a couple of things that I heard in the course of my reporting with folks in Detroit as we were talking about this. One of them, one of the people you’ll meet in our piece says -- it’s karma as she describes it -- but it’s not justice,” Jackson said.

Read: I-375 project in Detroit: MDOT to host virtual outreach event, public hearing

About the Author:

Larry Spruill Jr. joined the Local 4 News team in January 2018. Prior, he worked at WJAX in Jacksonville, Florida. Larry grew up as a military kid because his father is a retired Chief of the United States Air Force.