As the United States constructed highways starting in the twentieth century, how many residents were displaced? Here are some numbers:
The Times found that more than 200,000 people nationwide have lost their homes because of federal road projects during that time, and that some of the country’s largest recent highway expansions, including in California, have forced out residents in Black and Latino neighborhoods at disproportionately high rates. And that’s in addition to the more than 1 million people pushed out during the initial period of freeway building in the mid-20th century via routes that often targeted Black communities for demolition.
That is a lot of people moved just for highways. In addition to affecting particular groups at higher rates, highways broke through established neighborhoods with existing ways of life.
But, the era of highway construction through certain neighborhoods started facing more resistance decades ago. Jane Jacobs was involved in a movement against a highway that would have cut through the middle of Manhattan. Neighborhoods throughout the United States successfully fought against highways. And some of the highways that once plowed through neighborhoods were changed or removed.
This does not mean highways are on the way out. However, it does mean that constructing a new highway or widening a highway in densely settled locations is not a foregone conclusion.