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Frustrating before-and-after photos of this city’s highway transformation have people outraged: ‘This breaks my heart’

“This is such a shame.”

Frustrating before-and-after photos of a city's highway transformation

Photo Credit: u/Erianajones / Reddit

A Redditor’s recent throwback post led people to bemoan a very current problem. 

Posted to r/UrbanHell, a subreddit that welcomes “any photos which show either ugliness or a problem in urban development,” it shows a picture of a Detroit neighborhood from the mid-1950s above a photo of the same neighborhood from 1962. 

The 1950s photo shows a neighborhood and several people walking on a wide sidewalk. The 1962 photo shows seemingly the same area, only now a vast highway system looms in the forefront, and no people are to be seen. 

Frustrating before-and-after photos of a city's highway transformation
Photo Credit: u/Erianajones / Reddit

Above the images is the headline: “The destruction of American cities – Detroit Edition.” 

History.com reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation estimated that upward of 475,000 households — equalling more than 1 million people — were displaced as a result of federal highway construction, which was largely implemented between 1950 and 1970. 

Highway systems like the one shown here caused — and continue to cause — harm to communities and the environment. 

Communitywise, they disrupt pedestrian landscapes and cause certain property values to increase while significantly decreasing that of others. Not to mention, numerous small businesses are lost, and already-disenfranchised communities are often the most heavily affected. 

Walkable cities like those destroyed by large highway systems allow people to save money and stay healthier, so their loss can be immense. The change forces many to need a car but didn’t before, and data shows that it costs the average American almost $10,000 a year to own a car.

Environmentally, these highway systems lead to more cars and fewer trees, both of which lead to higher emissions of planet-warming gases into the environment. Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that transportation accounts for the largest portion (29%) of temperature-raising emissions. Further, nearly 60% of those emissions come from the type of vehicles that millions of Americans depend on for daily activities.

Highway systems like this are also devastating to wildlife, leading to habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, and death by automobiles. 

“This is such a shame,” lamented one commenter. “That street looks so much more inviting and alive.”

“Of course you have to destroy those ugly buildings, where else you gonna build these beautiful highways,” this commenter sarcastically said.

And one kept it short and sweet, saying: “Nothing more American than bulldozing existing neighborhoods for a highway.” 

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