Researching and Responding to Racial Disparities in Construction

During the construction of the United States Interstate System, an estimated one million people were uprooted (Schwartz, 1976). Because planning for the interstates and other roadways occurred at a time of significant racial change in American metropolitan areas, the interstates were tied to racial politics. Harms varied by state and metropolitan area, and marginalized communities often bore a disproportionate share. Their losses included neighborhoods central to community life and direct financial harms to individuals and their families that have compounded over time. The pain and anger in these communities is still alive today, evidenced most recently by articles that appeared in 2020 in California, New York, Michigan, Louisiana, Connecticut, and elsewhere. To concerned citizens and activists, the expressways are “monuments to racism” (Fleischer, 2020). Negotiations among federal, state, and local officials produced the expressways. Top officials gathered in 1958 to promote cooperative approaches, agreeing that “A community which displaces large numbers of people through activities designed for the general benefit has a responsibility to help these persons adjust satisfactorily to the new conditions. This responsibility is greatest where the potential injury is greatest—that is, among lower income and minority groups, the elderly, and others least equipped for what may be for them a major crisis” (Sagamore Report, 1958). State highway departments used eminent domain and displaced people from their homes, businesses, and community institutions. The objectives of this research are to (1) increase knowledge among government officials and the public about disparities associated with highway construction; (2) develop tools for state DOTs and local staff to help build accountability and trust as communities confront the truth about the disparate racial impacts of past decisions; and (3) provide successful practices for transportation professionals in the treatment of groups affected by construction activities.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $400000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-155

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Crichton-Sumners, Camille

  • Start Date: 20210525
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01772465
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-155
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 24 2021 3:14PM