The National Academies

NCHRP 08-155 [Anticipated]

Researching and Responding to Racial Disparities in Construction

  Project Data
Source: Minnesota DOT
Funds: $400,000
Staff Responsibility: Camille Crichton-Sumners
Fiscal Year: 2022

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected to be available on this website. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

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.


Direction from the AASHTO Special Committee on Research & Innovation: The scope of work will include all facility types but focus only on the construction phase of project delivery.


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