BALTIMORE — Billed as an extension of the highway system, when work began on what would be limited to 1.4 miles of road through the heart of West Baltimore, a teenager who would later become a congressman, Kweisi Mfume, felt its impact firsthand.
“It meant that you were confined,” said Mfume. “This became a dividing point for people who were often times would traverse these neighborhoods back and forth. When this started and was completed and even up until today, it was a boundary.”
Environmental opposition to the highway’s extension killed the project, but not before crews had destroyed nearly a thousand homes and businesses over an 18-block span, displacing 1500 people.
“This, the Highway to Nowhere, is the poster child for inequality and systematic racism in our country,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
Now, Maryland’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced legislation to revitalize areas here and across the country, which suffered at the expense of expanding the nation’s highway system.
They are seeking $15 billion dollars over five years as part of the president’s proposed two-trillion-dollar American Jobs Plan to right this and eight other misfit projects in eight cities.
“It’s never too late to correct a wrong if you have the right vision for the future,” said Mfume. “So we want open space here, safe areas. We want to make sure that there’s food security, create bike paths and opportunities like playgrounds for kids.”
Advocates of rebuilding over the highway say it would bring two communities together, which could reduce crime and increase business.