Could funding be coming to 'cap' I-95?
A bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives could provide funding to “cap” I-95 where it bisects Wilmington. Residents, advocates and state lawmakers support the idea.
The federal grant program to fund projects reconnecting neighborhoods, many Black and brown, divided decades ago by the interstate highway system passed the House as part of the INVEST in America infrastructure bill last month.
Wilmington residents and elected officials have advocated for I-95 to be “capped” — with something like a park built on top of it so that city residents can walk across. The idea is to help repair the harm done to communities when the highway was built through them.
“It really did devastate our community,” said Caren Turner, a resident of West Center City. “It was people who you grew up with who you no longer saw. You had no idea where they moved to.”
Turner lived in Wilmington when the highway construction displaced hundreds of families, and spoke at a round-table discussion hosted by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester Monday.
Turner and others expressed their vision for a beautiful park, accessible to all members of the community, regardless of age or housing status.
“I just would like to give some thought—as I am aging in place—that we certainly put things in the park for the elderly,” Turner said, “that we give some thought on curbing and how you access in wheelchairs and walkers.”
Representatives from the General Assembly, DelDOT and the City echoed Turner’s support for an infrastructure project to reconnect neighborhoods of Wilmington.
“The infrastructure of our past did not come without consequences,” said DelDOT Secretary Nicole Majeski at Monday’s roundtable discussion. “I-95 was a perfect example of [that]. ... It divided communities. And now 60 years later, we have an opportunity to correct that.”
Majeski says DelDOT has already asked the Wilmington Area Planning Council to study the feasibility of capping I-95.
But funding for a capping project is not guaranteed. Even if an infrastructure bill including the “reconnecting communities” funding passes Congress and is signed by President Biden, Wilmington would still need to apply for a grant.
Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware), pointing to events such as Monday’s discussion, says she thinks Wilmington would have a good shot at such funding.
“I think having all of this background, history, having all of this stakeholder involvement sets Wilmington way ahead of the curve,” she said.
Blunt Rochester says she’d like to see Biden sign an infrastructure bill including the grant program by the fall.