Detroit I-375 removal project: Review plans, give feedback at Eastern Market event

Freeway displaced historic Black neighborhoods

FILE- Traffic flows along Interstate 375 near downtown Detroit, on Sept. 30, 2004. A long-delayed plan to dismantle Interstate 375, a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) depressed freeway in Detroit that was built by demolishing Black neighborhoods 60 years ago, was a big winner of federal money Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, the first Biden administration grant awarded to tear down a racially divisive roadway. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) (Paul Sancya, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

DETROIT – The state is preparing for a major project to remove I-375 in Detroit, and officials are looking for feedback from the community.

The long-delayed plan to overhaul the Downtown Detroit interstate, which displaced two major Black neighborhoods in the early 1960s, is expected to begin in 2025 after receiving funding last year. Costing $270 million, the project will remove I-375 and replace it with a six-lane boulevard in an attempt to reconnect downtown with east side communities.

As the project gets closer to breaking ground, the Michigan Department of Transportation is hosting an event to share project plans with the community and get feedback from locals.

From 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 19, MDOT will be present at Shed 3 in Eastern Market in Downtown Detroit. There, visitors can review plans for the I-375 removal project and speak with those behind it.

“I’ve been advocating for six years to fill in this ditch and knit this city together,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan previously said.

The highway removal is hailed by city and state leaders as an important step in bridging parts of Detroit that were separated decades ago. Historic Black Detroit neighborhoods Black Bottom and Paradise Valley were razed as part of the 1950s creation of an interstate highway system. Those plans displaced 100,000 residents and erected a longstanding barrier between Downtown Detroit and east side communities.

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

---> Remembering Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested federal funding for the project in 2021. The Biden Administration handed out $1.5 billion in grants to 26 projects across the U.S. for infrastructural changes under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.

The Detroit I-375 removal project was awarded $104.6 million from those federal grants.

In addition to removing the steep curve of I-375 and replacing it with a boulevard, the project will remove 15 old bridges and two stormwater runoff pump stations. The new boulevard will also feature LED lighting, wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian crossings.

While Detroit and Michigan leaders believe the project will help rectify a past racial wrong, some caution that the plan may still price-out Black residents due to new business development and condo buildings that promise direct links to downtown.

“They’re not going to right a historical wrong where Black businesses were wiped out,” said Sam Riddle, political director of the Michigan National Action Network and a longtime resident of the area. “What they’re going to do is repeat the same mistake that prices out majority-Black Detroit.”

Riddle told the AP that if Detroit leaders want to truly address racial inequity, more holistic steps need to be taken to improve Black livelihood in the region, such as building affordable housing.

After years of planning, dating back to 2013, the project is estimated to begin in 2025 and conclude by 2028.

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.