by Max Brantley
So why did cities help build the expressways that would so profoundly decimate them? The answer involves a mix of self-interested industry groups, design choices made by people far away, a lack of municipal foresight, and outright institutional racism.Or:
"Highway engineers dominated the decision-making," says DiMento. "They were trained to design without much consideration for how a highway might impact urban fabric — they were worried about the most efficient way of moving people from A to B."
State and city politicians accepted these plans for a variety of reasons. In an era when suburbs had just begun to grow, DiMento says, "local politicians saw urban freeways as a way of bringing suburban commuters into city." Some local businesspeople supported them for similar reasons.And on it goes. We actually have members of the Little Rock City Board of Directors who think suburban commuters are more valuable than people who live here and add value to our property tax base, plus do most of shopping here.
But an unmistakable part of the equation was the federally supported program of "urban renewal," in which lower-income urban communities — mostly African-American — were targeted for removal.
... The same pattern was repeated over and over, leading to cities pockmarked with empty neighborhoods and destructive highways. People displaced from the destroyed areas moved to others, leading to overcrowding and increases in crime, while most people with the means fled to the suburbs — commuting on the new highways, and siphoning money away from these cities' tax bases.