I95 & I195 Mark the Dividing Line between Economic Classes in Providence, RI

In Providence, RI, two highways serve to separate those in different economic classes from each other. This “other side of the highway” design also occurs in cities other than Providence, such as New Haven, CT and towns along the east coast of Florida. The Brown Political Review reports on the situation in Providence. For instance, Jacob Binder writes:

The national highway system was created in the 1950s, and during that period the routes for I-195 and I-95 – the two highways that cut through Providence – were chosen. Many communities within cities across the country did not want noisy, congested roadways running through their neighborhoods, and so, as is often the case, highway routes were often chosen to favor affluent white residents. In Providence, the paths of I-195 and I-95 followed suit, physically dividing the city and isolating already marginalized communities of color. To the west and south of the highway, the neighborhoods are predominantly low-income and Hispanic, and I-195 cut off these parts of the city from the downtown area and the wealthier neighborhoods to the east. Thus through city development, Providence used transportation infrastructure to reinforce segregation, and these divisions still remain, preserved by the two strips of highway.


Downtown Providence, showing the I95 and I195 highway systems.

Brown Political Review, 3-19-2016


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