(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has requested federal dollars to upgrade the I-375 and I-75/I-375 Interchange in Detroit.
The governor’s office announced Wednesday morning she had requested federal money appropriated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to fund the upgrades in a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The governor did not specify how much money she requested.
Whitmer had previously introduced a $3.5 billion plan to fix Michigan's roads and repair or replace about 100 bridges throughout the state.
“Right now, we have an historic opportunity to put Michiganders first and utilize the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to connect every community with safe, smooth roads and bridges,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer continued, addressing claims repeated by Buttigieg that many modern highway systems were built to the detriment of communities of color.
“As we build up our roads and bridges, we also have to take a closer look at the unjust legacy of so many of our freeways, including I-375 and the I-75/ I-375 Interchange, that were built decades ago by demolishing Black neighborhoods, splitting up key economic areas, and decreasing connectivity between families, communities, and small businesses," Whitmer wrote.
I-375 was opened in 1964, and relied on the state’s eminent domain laws to demolish homes and businesses in the predominantly Black neighborhoods known as Paradise Valley and Black Bottom. The highway separated the city’s Black community from Detroit’s central business district and eastern neighborhoods. The governor’s news release blames I-375 for “decades of underinvestment and a lack of opportunity for the predominantly Black communities on the other side of the freeway.”
Construction of I-375 also relied on the leveling of several blocks of commercial and residential buildings. The governor’s news release notes the subsequent building of cross-bridges across the expressway failed to stem the decline of the communities east of I-375.
Whitmer’s letter to Buttigieg continued: “The historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a first-ever program to reconnect communities adversely impacted by infrastructure designs like I-375 that erected barriers to mobility and opportunity and disproportionately affected communities of color,” she said.
The Michigan Department of Transportation and Detroit officials including Mayor Mike Duggan have expressed their desire to remove the aging I-375 completely, and replace it with an urban boulevard.