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I-95 Cap project receives second round of public feedback

I-95_wilmington_cap.jpg
Delaware Public Media
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A community divided for decades is on its way to reconnection.

The construction of I-95 separated the city of Wilmington over 60 years ago, an example of underrepresented cities across the country that were divided by federal freeways.

Now, the city is looking to remedy that.

Wilmington residents gathered for the second public workshop on the I-95 Cap Feasibility Study.

The process officially began last year when The Wilmington Area Planning Council allocated $100,000 in its United Planning Work Program to explore the cap project.

There are three main drafts for the cap – two that would leave all streets between Delaware Avenue and 6th street open, creating blocks of parks and green spaces, and another that would close 8th and 9th street to cars for an extended greenway.

I-95 Cap Project Public Workshop
Rachel Sawicki
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Delaware Public Media
Residents discussed the things they liked and disliked about each proposed plan, and were able to leave suggestions for what they want in the area that will reconnect neighborhoods downtown.

At the public workshop on Tuesday night, Dave Gula, Principal Planner for WILMAPCO, said building over the interstate and developing the green spaces above, will take close to a decade to finish.

“It’s going to take a little while," Gula said. "Physically, it can’t get done faster if you had all the money in the world. But it’s going to be worth it.”

He added that the construction of I-95 created unsafe conditions for people walking and biking due to heavy traffic and a lack of pedestrian walkways.

Wilmington resident and bicyclist Chris Harris echoed Gula’s safety concerns.

“We need to not continue to build for cars and commuters, we need to build for the people who live here,” Harris said.

I-95 construction amplified changes to Wilmington’s racial composition, and the area where the highway splits the city now consists of a 79 percent African American population, and is mainly considered as low income.

New Castle resident and boilermaker Martin Willis says Wilmington residents should be prioritized for jobs created by the project.

“It’s just not right that the only jobs that people of color get are the ones where they’re holding the signs saying ‘stop’ or ‘yield,'" Willis said. "We don’t get none of the higher worker jobs, none of the plumbing jobs, none of the electrician jobs, and we have to make a change.”

Willis says in construction, he is often a minority on the job.

Details on the proposed designs for the project and way to give feedback are available at WILMAPCO's website.

I-95 cap plans
Rachel Sawicki
/
Delaware Public Media

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.
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