I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project

This grant will help dismantle a highway that was built 60 years ago through a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, and turn it into a safer and more traversable boulevard with a bike lane and wider sidewalk.

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The city of Detroit is seen from Riverside Park on October 16, 2022. (Getty/Kent Nishimura)
  • Project name: I-375 Reconnecting Communities Project

  • Program: Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (INFRA)

  • Law: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

  • Recipient: Michigan Department of Transportation

  • Investment amount: $104,657,051

  • City: Detroit

  • State: Michigan

  • Congressional districts: 10 and 11

  • Construction start date: 2025

  • Jobs created: N/A

This profile is part of a project that finds and tracks the public and private sector investments generated or supported by three of the Biden administration’s economic laws. These laws make investments in the American people, helping to grow the middle class, lowering the cost of living, and setting up America to better compete and cooperate in the world. Pulling directly from several sources, this catalog provides users with publicly available information such as the number of jobs created, workforce training partnerships, and storytellers benefiting from particular projects, among other detailed information. The profile below expands on the economic, practical, and climate impacts of just one of the 35,000 investments that can be found in the Biden Administration Investment Tracker. It may be updated to account for future project developments.

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More than $100 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will fund the replacement of a highway that divided a predominantly Black neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan, 60 years ago with an accessible ground-level road with bike lanes and sidewalks. The project will create jobs and remove the barriers for economic growth for predominantly Black communities by connecting the neighborhood with the rest of Detroit.

Historical context

One of the shortest interstates in the country displaced 130,000 residents in a Black neighborhood more than 60 years ago:

  • According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, I-375 is only 1 mile long. At the time it opened until at least 2007, I-375 was the shortest Interstate in the country. – Georgia Tech Institute of Transportation Engineers, September 7, 2011
  • “Developed in the late 50s and early 60s … the stretch of pavement effectively demolished a thriving neighborhood — Black Bottom — and the Paradise Valley entertainment district, displacing 130,000 people.” – DetroitIsIt, December 14, 2022; Reuters, September 15, 2022
  • “Officials now say it created a barrier between the city’s downtown and neighborhoods to the east, harming predominantly Black communities that were shut out of investment opportunities.” – The Washington Post, September 15, 2022

Plans for this project have been discussed for more than a decade:

  • “It has been 17 years since the earliest discussions, and almost 10 years since the start of the official removal process.” –, October 17, 2022
  • “In April 2013, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) made public its considerations … to conduct essential repairs to the roadway, or remove it and convert it into a boulevard or some other community-focused resource.” –, October 17, 2022
  • “In June 2014, six different proposals were revealed to the public.” –, October 17, 2022

Project summary

  • “The $270 million project will fill the trench that carries the highway, replacing it with a narrower boulevard at the same level as the surrounding streets. The plans call for a cycle track and new bridges across sections of highway that will remain.” – The Washington Post, September 15, 2022
  • “The award will allow the state to begin dismantling the reviled roadway in 2025, two years earlier than initially planned, and replace it with a street-level boulevard by 2028.” – StreetsBlog USA, September 22, 2022
  • “In Detroit, Michigan USDOT is investing in a project that will reconnect neighborhoods that were divided by the current highway design with an at-grade boulevard, providing the community better access to jobs and services in the area. … The project will realign the ramps and freeway near I-375, convert I-375 to a slower speed boulevard, install calming traffic measures, rehabilitate a stormwater runoff pump station, construct wider sidewalks, and reconnect neighborhood streets to the boulevard in the project area.” – U.S. Department of Transportation, September 15, 2022
  • “I-375 is no longer needed, and the aging infrastructure requires costly maintenance. The interchange with I-75 and the connection to Gratiot and Eastern Market will be upgraded to maintain speed on I-75 and remove the bridges, which are outdated. Current and estimated future traffic volumes will be accounted for in the new design. The way downtown connects to neighborhoods – both east and west, as well as north and south – will be improved.” – City of Detroit, last accessed March 1, 2023

Outcomes, improvements, and practical impact

  • “$104 million in funding will go toward a project replacing the I-375 freeway in Detroit from a sunken freeway with a new lower-speed boulevard with pedestrian walkways. … Among other improvements, the project will realign the ramps and freeway near I-375, install calming traffic measures, remove old bridges and stormwater runoff pump stations, and construct wider sidewalks and separated buffered cycle tracks with protected and signalized pedestrian crossings. The project will reconnect neighborhoods, reduce costs, and improve safety.” – The White House, last accessed March 7, 2023
  • “The surface boulevard replaces 3 outdated bridges spanning the highway and reconnects downtown to Lafayette Park and Eastern Market.” – City of Detroit, last accessed March 16, 2023
  • By 2027, there will be “a new boulevard with new businesses.” – NBC News, June 21, 2021
  • “Michigan has an opportunity to eliminate this obstacle and provide easier access to better jobs, services, and quality of life to the residents of adjacent areas of persistent poverty.” – State of Michigan Office of the Governor, March 16, 2022

Racial equity and justice impact

  • “Black Bottom was a predominantly Black neighborhood in the city and the adjacent Paradise Valley served as the town’s entertainment and business district, boasting jazz clubs and several other Black-owned businesses. The area was razed and some 100,000 Black residents were displaced when the city built Interstate 375 in 1964 as part of the country’s interstate highway program, which established more than 40,000 miles of interstates across the United States — demolishing homes, crippling communities and perpetuating inequality in the process.” – NBC News, June 18, 2021
  • “‘It’s a physical barrier that divides up a community or separates one community from another,’ said Antoine Bryant, Detroit’s director of planning and development. ‘It’s a key initiative where we’re looking to ensure that we’re righting a policy wrong from, essentially, 60 years ago. It led to the demise of not only the center for African American culture, housing and promotional activity, but also the elimination of generational wealth for many African Americans in the city.’” – NBC News, June 18, 2021
  • “The project, set to break ground in 2024, will fill the trench that carries the highway and add amenities like bike lanes, wider sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, Bryant said. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg acknowledged the harmful impacts of the 1956 highway program when launching the grant initiative over the summer, saying, ‘we can’t ignore the basic truth that some of the planners and politicians behind those projects built them directly through the heart of vibrant, populated communities — sometimes in an effort to reinforce segregation. Sometimes because the people there had less power to resist. And sometimes as part of a direct effort to replace or eliminate Black neighborhoods.” – NBC News, June 18, 2021

Economic impact

The project will connect downtown to neighborhoods, create walkable space, and reduce the need for vehicle usage:

  • Jonathan Loree, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) senior project manager: “This is the heart of the city, and the boulevard will serve pedestrians and cyclists well, and move people around better – in ways that the freeway clearly cannot accomplish. The way downtown connects to neighborhoods – both east and west, as well as north and south – will be drastically improved, and some elements of the former street grid will be redesigned back into the road network, where possible. Ultimately it will be a much more useful corridor in terms of moving people around, offering walkable options, and opening real estate for potential development. This will also eliminate some of the vehicle usage in that area and effectively replace a large concrete infrastructure with a more environmentally and community-friendly passageway.” – SBN Detroit, December 20, 2022

The project will create jobs, free a high-value piece of property in a high-traffic area, and provide opportunities to disadvantaged businesses:

  • Jonathan Loree, MDOT senior project manager: “This is a very valuable piece of property close to downtown, and it’s a high-traffic area with a lot of potential for development and new businesses. We’ll also be putting people to work and looking for minority contractors to work on the project. … We want this property to provide long-term benefits and we are looking at leveraging the project and the outcomes toward that. This includes workforce development, providing more opportunities to disadvantaged businesses, entrepreneurs and small business enterprises and more.” – SBN Detroit, December 20, 2022

Now that the federal government is handing over the land, Michigan and the City of Detroit created a community advisory committee to decide what to do with the property:

  • Charity Dean, former Detroit director of civil rights, inclusion, and opportunity, “said descendants of entrepreneurs and homeowners displaced by I-375 could have the first opportunity to purchase land that was occupied by the failed urban renewal project. Dean also advocated for having developers contribute to a racial equity fund, or a 0% interest loan for Black-owned businesses. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Dean is ‘absolutely right’ about the damage caused by I-375, but the city doesn’t have complete control over how to fix it. ‘This is really a state issue,’ Duggan said. ‘The first thing that happens is the feds have to decide to give the land (opening up under the reconstruction project) back to the state. That hasn’t happened yet. Once that happens, the state has to decide what to do with the land.’ MDOT selected two dozen people to serve on its community advisory committee. The members also will have a say in what should happen with the project. Construction is planned to start in 2025, thanks in part to a $104.6 million federal grant.” – Bridge Detroit, January 11, 2023

Official supporting statements

  • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg: “This stretch of I-375 cuts like a gash through the neighborhood, one of the many examples I have seen in communities across the country where a piece of infrastructure has become a barrier. … With these funds, we’re now partnering with the state and the community to transform it into a road that will connect rather than divide.” – WILX10, September 15, 2022
  • Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D): “I’m ready to fill in the ditch called I-375 and make it a beautiful, bustling boulevard, connecting the city of Detroit. … We all know the painful history of I-375, and the city’s planning staff is having ongoing conversations with the community on how we’re going to transform I-375 together. Today’s announcement means we’re going to be able to speed this project up from 2027 to 2025, thanks to the city, state, and federal governments all working together. Let’s fill in the ditch and re-knit this community.” – WILX10, September 15, 2022
  • Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-MI): “As a former Lafayette Park resident, I know there is no way to undo the damage that the building of I-375 did to Black communities. … I am truly glad MDOT recognizes that racial equity work must be done in this area, although we know that the I-375 project won’t be able to address all of the inequities that continue to persist in our communities. My hope is that, with the FONSI issued and the project moving forward, the community engagement process will uplift the needs and desires of the local community so that the advancements in connectivity and sustainability also include the prioritization of green space on the excess land as the majority of neighbors desire, not commercial or residential development that is out of financial reach for many Detroiters.” – State of Michigan Office of the Governor, March 16, 2022

Selected clips

  • MSNBC news segment on the history of Black Bottom – MSNBC, June 18, 21
  • “Opinion: Demolition of I-375 can never erase the sins of the past” – Detroit Free Press, September 19, 2022
  • “A Freeway Project with Inclusion and Equity at [Its] Core” – DetroitIsIt, December 14, 2022
  • “Groups across the country are fighting efforts to expand ‘harmful’ highways” – NBC News, October 15, 2021
  • “I-375 replacement project in Detroit moves closer to reality, gets OK from feds” – Detroit Free Press, September 19, 2022

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