In the July Socialist I wrote about a provision in the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill to spend $20 billion to demolish urban freeways across the country, most of them running through or alongside communities of color. The freeway removal proposal was conceived to address decades of racist transportation policy as well as constitute one building block in the fight against climate change.
But the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Senate and endorsed by President Biden reduced that $20 billion freeway removal pot to a mere $1 billion, which might not be enough to completely remove a single freeway. Meanwhile, the bill includes $110 billion in new highway funding. The White House says much of this money would go to repair of existing highway infrastructure, but with that much money available, members of Congress will surely seek to add substantial highway miles in their districts.
The Congress for the New Urbanism is circulating a petition on change.org to try and restore as much of the funding for freeway removal as possible as the bill is taken up by the House. Unless anti-highway activists succeed in ensuring a substantial amount of funding for removal, the infrastructure bill could largely continue the trend in transportation policy going back to the 1950s — putting the pedal to the metal on highways, with the environment and communities of color merely collateral damage.