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$2 million advances Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere redevelopment study phase — now, community input is needed

Two million dollars isn’t a lot of money in the grand scheme of transportation projects, which often cost millions to billions.

Yet, that federal grant is about to be hugely significant in redeveloping “the Highway to Nowhere,” an infamous stretch of 1.4 mile highway in West Baltimore. That money assures Baltimore City can create the stellar proposal needed to secure the future federal funding to eventually complete the project.

The same community that lives with the blight left by the incomplete highway will be the one at the helm of planning decisions, assured city and federal leadership.

“This is the next chapter in correcting a wrong. We're not anywhere near the finish line,” said Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat, who stood near the Monroe Street bridge with the highway to his back. On either side he was flanked by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Rep. Kweisi Mfume of the 7th district and Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, as Cardin continued to say, “With these dollars, we wanted to get the best ideas as to how we can make this such a positive way to strengthen neighborhoods here in Baltimore.”

The city has already been holding community listening sessions and those workgroup meetings will continue.

The delegation has been fighting to get federal dollars into a redevelopment project for years. The money comes via the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law through the Reconnecting Communities Program, which both senators and Mfume pushed to create. It aims to restore and reconnect communities that have been historically disenfranchised by past infrastructure decisions.

Back in the late 1960’s, the road was built to be an extension of I-70 that would have connected to I-95. White suburban activists had the project halted before it could be completed, citing environmental concerns, but not before 971 homes and 62 businesses, primarily belonging to Black residents, were destroyed. The highway has been called “a blight,” “a scar” and a “wound.”

Those are deep impacts still felt in the city today, said Mayor Brandon Scott as he alluded to the problems with crime West Baltimore has tackled for decades.

“When you take out those family owned businesses, when you take out the people that were doctors and teachers and lawyers, and… really distressed their whole neighborhood, what else did you expect to happen?” he asked.

This study phase is slated to run through January 2025. By that time, the city will adopt the final plan for the project proposal. It could still be many years before shovels get in the ground.

Emily is a general assignment news reporter for WYPR.
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