NewsHillsborough County


Federal program to help fix roadway divides in minority communities

Posted at 10:34 PM, Nov 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-25 23:18:29-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla — Roads. We travel them every day and often see them as a sign of progress.

But for many black and brown communities across the country, they have historically been a sign of destruction.

"Well there are many areas, we all know that the highways came straight through our neighborhoods," said the Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis.

Hillsborough County NAACP President Yvette Lewis

It's a pattern that the new infrastructure bill hopes to fix through its "Reconnecting Communities" pilot program.

The program will allow communities, divided by major roads, to apply for grant money to study and fix the negative impact those roads have had.

When it comes to Hillsborough County, Lewis says two examples immediately come to mind.

"Central Park Avenue, it's really gone because of the highways. They said the roads were coming so for the sake of progress and economic development we were forced out of the area," she said.

Then there's I-4 in east Tampa. Lewis says there used to be an exit ramp right at North 40th Street, but it eventually closed. According to her, after it closed there was an immediate and negative impact on minority businesses in this area.

"There is no more traffic coming there to help those businesses along that interstate to be sustainable and to help them grow," she said.

So what can be done? Well, in extreme cases, the program could lead to a road closure. Lewis says she doesn't see that happening with I-275 or I-4 in these communities. But she adds that what should happen is an investment in programs and infrastructure that work to reconnect and rebuild those communities.

"In order for it to work, it has to trickle up, not trickle down," she said.

And she's calling on local and state leaders to get the ball rolling and apply for the grant money.

"The time is now. If you say you care, show me," she said.