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The End of the Highway

The End of the Highway

Is highway removal the bipartisan issue you didn’t know you should care about?

In a new cover story co-published by The Nation and the Texas ObserverObserver executive editor Megan Kimble (@megankimble) spent months investigating “The End of the Highway.

For decades, transportation departments across the country have built ever bigger freeways to fix congestion, despite the reams of evidence that it doesn’t work. In Texas, the Department of Transportation plans to spend $25 billion widening its notorious highways over the next few years on the basis of flawed and faulty projections. Now advocates in the state are at the epicenter of a national movement asking: What if, instead of building our aging roads back wider and higher—doubling down on the displacement that began in the 1950s and the climate consequences unfolding now—we removed those highways altogether? What if we restored the scarred, paved-over land they inhabit and gave it back to the communities it was taken from?

Exploring revolutionary proposals on the table in Austin and Dallas—plans that could change the face of Texas, the nature of transportation, and the future of the morning commute for hundreds of thousands of workers—Kimble dives deep into state politics, city planning, budgets, and community reparations. She also offers insight into the social, environmental, economic, and racial impacts of highway construction on communities—and the burgeoning legacy of highway removal.

FinalShipped_July_Aug2021_Page_01.jpgFrom San Francisco to Milwaukee, Pasadena to Syracuse, campaigns for the removal of urban freeways across the country have grown in popularity in recent years. But while more than a dozen freeways have since been removed, the idea remained mostly aspirational. That is, until President Joe Biden appointed Pete Buttigieg to lead the US Department of Transportation. Seemingly overnight, the harms wrought by urban highways became mainstream news.

With Biden’s massive infrastructure plan committing funds to reconnect communities divided by highways (a fancy way of saying highway removal), Kimble’s report comes at a transformational moment in politics and transportation planning nationwide.