April 15, 2019

Surviving the Freeway will be a forward-looking examination of the past. It will provide a multi-vocal historical perspective to ground public discussions about the legacies of the freeway as we understand them today. In doing so, it will create a base of engagement that will help communities organize and prepare to participate in planning for the future of the freeway and its adjacent neighborhoods. This is a necessary step toward any publically-accountable re-envisioning of the freeway intended to redress the communities it has harmed and continues to harm.

The topic has critical policy implications and is ripe for investigation. Minneapolis is in the midst of a long-overdue consideration of how racism and privilege shaped its built environment, a process informed in part by the work of HSPH collaborators at Mapping Prejudice. The Minneapolis 2040 Plan charts the course toward a more just and equitable city. Seeking to mitigate the legacies of this history, its goal is to “eliminate disparities.” It includes a policy of “Freeway Remediation” proposed by Cam Gordon that acknowledges the “disparate impact” of freeway construction on communities of color. Recent reporting has drawn public attention to the fact that communities of color are disproportionately impacted by pollution, especially along freeways. The 2040 Plan’s freeway policy aims to “repair the damage done.” But what, exactly, was the nature and extent of that damage? Who, specifically, was harmed, and in what ways? And what do they think would be appropriate remediation and redress? The available research offers few answers.