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Local & Regional

I-244 Through Greenwood Listed In National 'Freeways Without Futures' Report

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Congress for the New Urbanism
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A report from an national urban planning think tank recommends the portion of Interstate 244 that runs through Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood be torn down.

"This year marks the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when Black Wall Street was first destroyed," the Congress for the New Urbanism writes in its annual "Freeways Without Futures" report.

"Now would be a fitting time to carry forward a conversation about I-244’s removal. Preliminary investigation suggests it is more than feasible," the report reads. "This one-mile segment of I-244 is hardly essential for regional travel and Tulsa has a second loop highway, the Gilcrease Expressway, only a few miles to the north. The outstanding question is how to best ensure the highway’s removal and a subsequent restoration of Greenwood helps Black Tulsans heal and thrive."

CNU says the highways included in the report are chosen because they are "some of the worst highways in America; the ones that have left a terrible legacy and incredible hurdles for the people who live around them."

During his visit to Tulsa on Tuesday to commemorate the Race Massacre centennial, President Joe Biden floated the idea of removing or repurposing the portion of I-244 running through Greenwood. The White House on Tuesday also released details of a plan to narrow the racial wealth gap that includes examining the removal of highways.

"The Greenwood community has suffered as entire neighborhoods have been eliminated to accommodate roads and bridges that swiftly move people ‘through’ the district, rather than ‘to’ the district,” Burlinda Radney, a member of the board of the Historic Greenwood District Main Street, said in a statement celebrating the highway's inclusion in the report.

"As a Board Member of the Historic Greenwood District Main Street, I am extremely excited about possibilities of reclaiming and re-imagining I-244. I believe exploring all cutting-edge options would be a win for the Greenwood District," shared Bill White.

Reached by phone Friday afternoon, former state lawmaker and current project director for the Historic Greenwood District Main Street Jabar Shumate said he, too, wholeheartedly supported the idea.

"The freeway itself, it's a symbol -- it's a symbol of destruction," Shumate said. "It's hurtful and painful, a reminder of what happened in the Greenwood District and what led to its downfall."

Shumate said he believes the nascent idea would get buy-in from policymakers at the city and state levels.

"Removal of Interstate 244 would be in the interest of all who hope to see a better and more cohesive downtown area, a stronger and more robust Greenwood, and definitely a way in which those communities are connected," Shumate said.

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