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Transportation

Can a New Urban Highway Avoid the Mistakes of the Past?

As plans advance for the Interstate 49 Connector, Lafayette, Louisiana, might soon find out.
A rendering of a possible I-49 design from a "Blue Book" study of the connector corridor done in 1999.
A rendering of a possible I-49 design from a "Blue Book" study of the connector corridor done in 1999.University of Louisiana-Lafayette / LCG/MPO

Lafayette, Louisiana, shouldn’t have to debate the social hazards of building a highway straight through the heart of a city. It’s been living proof of them for decades.

In the 1960s, the Evangeline Thruway rolled downtown—a monster six-lane north-south thoroughfare destined to divide and destroy the very community it called home. The thruway “foisted blight upon historic neighborhoods,” as Christiaan Mader of the local Independent has described it, leaving vacant lots, flop houses, and rusty fences for the poor families who lived in its wake. Many blocks hugging the road are now populated largely by minorities with median household incomes of less than $25,000 a year.