Freeway Remediation: Recover and repurpose space taken by construction of the interstate highway system in Minneapolis and use it to reconnect neighborhoods and provide needed housing, employment, greenspace, clean energy and other amenities consistent with City goals.
During the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, freeways were built in Minneapolis and across the United States to more efficiently move traffic through the city, region, state and country. These highways accelerated car travel through and around the city, but also decimated neighborhoods. Many areas in Minneapolis were cleared for highway corridors and so-called “urban renewal” housing projects. These projects removed hundreds of housing units and businesses, creating barriers and cutting deep and enduring trenches in neighborhoods throughout the City. The impacts on land value and future property tax revenue is difficult to quantify, but it is estimated that the Minneapolis property taken for freeway constructions would be worth at least $655 million today.
In 1960, the areas where Interstate Highways 35W, 94, and Minnesota State Highway 55 were built were home to approximately 27% of the city’s white population, but 82% of its black population. Many African American communities were pushed into these locations as a result of restrictive racial covenants that were introduced in 1910. These areas were often seen as “blighted” because a majority of the residents were African American and had been subject to redlining and systematic disinvestment since the 1930s. As a result of freeway construction, there were direct and disproportionate losses of residential and commercial property occupied and owned by black residents. Minneapolis’ black residents and other people of color are still more likely to live near a freeway than other residents, which has been and continues to be associated with a variety of negative consequences including increased health problems due to air quality impairment.
In recent years, the disparate impact of the interstate highway system on poor people of color is getting more attention, and more cities across the United States have been developing policies and strategies to repair the damage done by the freeways built in their communities.
There is significant potential in Minneapolis to recover land and space lost to the freeways. This could be accomplished by repurposing or reclaiming space the system isn’t using or doesn’t need and finding ways to build near and over the current system even while it keeps functioning.
The City will seek to accomplish the following action steps to recover and repurpose space taken by construction of the interstate highway system in Minneapolis and use it to reconnect neighborhoods and provide needed housing, employment, greenspace, clean energy and other amenities consistent with City goals.
- Work with the state of Minnesota and other partners to analyze and mitigate the negative effects of the highway system in Minneapolis.
- Identify possible locations where land bridges and freeway lids can be used over portions of the interstate highway system for housing, commercial, or transit purposes.
- Consider the removal of portions of freeways, including some exit and entrance ramps, to better connect communities and open land for development.
- Identify alternatives for using the land on freeway embankments for energy collection with solar panels or wind harvesting; water management and purposeful plantings; and as dedicated public transit corridors.
- Explore options for how private development could support the construction of freeway lids or covers and other mitigations.
- Consider how some portion of the proceeds from any private development could be paid to the people whose homes were taken by eminent domain (or their descendants).
- Support initiatives to reconnect neighborhoods separated by freeways, in partnership with MnDOT and other stakeholders, including improvements and replacements to pedestrian and multi-use bridges.