Giving Back What Was Taken - The West Baltimore United Project Seeks to Heal 50 Years of Infrastructure Damage
Friday Oct 21st, 2022
BALTIMORE, MD (October 21, 2022) - On October 12th, 2022, The Baltimore City Department of Transportation applied to the Federal Highway Administration's Reconnecting Communities grant for up to $2 million in federal dollars to conduct a planning feasibility and concept design study for West Baltimore United.
The West Baltimore United project will set the groundwork for the demolition, and redevelopment of Route US 40, known to Baltimoreans as the "Highway to Nowhere." Mayor Brandon M. Scott stated, "This is an important step in directing resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and applying them to long overdue infrastructure corrections for a community that has suffered from the impacts of the construction of the US 40 Franklin and Mulberry expressway for over 50 years." Before its construction, the highway removed 14 contiguous blocks of predominantly Black middle-class families, businesses, and homes.
"For over fifty years, the Highway to Nowhere has divided West Baltimore and stifled a once-vibrant area, standing in the way of economic growth and opportunity. With this request for federal funding support, Baltimore City has taken an important step to move beyond the destructive legacy of the Highway to Nowhere, and toward a future where the West Baltimore community it divided can finally reunite and grow together. I authored the model for the Reconnecting Communities program to specifically address the Highway to Nowhere and fought alongside Team Maryland to include it in the federal infrastructure modernization law. We'll be working just as hard to deliver these funds to Baltimore to tear down this highway and reunite our communities once and for all" said Senator Chris Van Hollen.
7th District Congressman Kweisi Mfume said, "I walked the streets surrounding the ‘Highway to Nowhere' long before becoming a member of Congress. It is a barrier to progress left behind by indifferent public planning at best and willful neglect at worst. I can recall the vibrant and connected communities that existed before the Highway was thrust upon the City and that is why I am fighting in Congress to right this wrong," he concluded.
Baltimore City Department of Transportation Director Steve Sharkey said, "Removing the highway will return roughly 600 acres to the community for development and green space, our residents are deserving of this opportunity to revive this once thriving community and create their own unified vision of West Baltimore" and continued, "If won, this will position Baltimore City to pursue additional grants and financing strategies to fund the construction and redevelopment of this area of West Baltimore."
This planning process will include robust public engagement by working closely with community organizers for public outreach. Additionally, Baltimore City will be partnering with a local and Black-led non-profit organization - The Environmental Justice Journalism Initiative - to develop a video documentary about the area's history and how the highway has impacted the community. A primary goal of the planning process is to help connect the people of West Baltimore with economic opportunities. The project team is committed to hiring local interns, community organizers, and hosting a jobs forum. Additionally, if awarded, Baltimore City will use this grant to expand on earlier and smaller planning efforts to realize the communities' vision. The Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program framework for the planning study will achieve the following:
- Reduce inequities by redressing historic discriminatory and divisive infrastructure
- Encourage increased housing supply by investing in communities experiencing high vacancy and housing disrepair and integrating opportunities for new housing infill development
- Improve safety & mobility by reconnecting divided communities with infill development and quality bicycle, pedestrian, transit, and roadway infrastructure
- Improve economic strength & global competitiveness by improving access to jobs and opportunities with complete street and public transit infrastructure, and by integrating opportunities to develop new employment centers in West Baltimore
- Address climate & sustainability by prioritizing active transportation and integrating green infrastructure
- Advance technological innovation by providing job training opportunities as part of the planning study and by integrating plans for intelligent transportation and the latest WIFI and internet technologies into new development
The grant was submitted by The Baltimore City Department of Transportation (BCDOT) in partnership with the Department of Planning (BCDOP), Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), and the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) with broad support from a multitude of community stakeholders and elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels.
Baltimore City, the community and its leaders are excited to take the next steps toward this transformative infrastructure project and will continue to engage community members and stakeholders as we move forward and await a final grant funding decision.
Information about the West Baltimore United project is available here.