Political campaigns

Campaigns to remove freeways gain momentum in the United States

There are now so many highway removal projects and advocacy campaigns underway that a peak body is needed to represent them all.

A recent special report in The fifth state looked at how a growing number of overseas towns had torn down highways and considered why Australian towns should follow suit.

Well, unlike a rush hour motorist, it seems like the idea is gaining traction fast.

The latest in the United States is that a peak body has been formed to represent all freeway removal projects and advocacy groups across the country.

Supported by the Congress for the New Urbanism, the Freeway Fighters Network covers 50 projects or campaigns to build or tear down expressways, as well as 19 other community groups opposed to freeway expansion.

In addition to advocating for the replacement of highways with multi-modal transportation systems, housing and open public spaces, the group calls for investments in community development that create wealth for nearby residents.

“The Freeway Fighters Network serves as a think tank for advocates working to transform communities that have been scarred by the freeways,” said Amy Stelly, co-founder of the Claiborne Avenue Alliance in New Orleans.

It comes after the Biden administration set aside US$1 billion (A$1.3 billion) for the scrapping of urban freeways as part of its infrastructure bill, sparking the imagination of a growing number of communities across the country.

What’s particularly interesting, given the deep political divisions in the United States right now, is that the communities seeking to get rid of the roads aren’t all grouped into red states or blue states.

The FFN has member organizations in states including California, New York, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont; as well as in Texas, New Orleans, Missouri, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and South Carolina.

“Studies are conclusive: the widening of motorways does not relieve congestion. Instead, the induced demand quickly eats up the extra capacity, generating more greenhouse gases and wasting billions of dollars,” said CNU Executive Director Rick Cole.