Amy Stelly: Campaigning to Get Rid of an Urban Highway

Urban highways are ubiquitous in pretty much every city across America. They cut through neighborhoods, make navigation challenging, decrease property values, and bring exhaust and noise into our communities. But they also help people move quickly from one end of the city to the other, which is why they were built in so many cities, especially during the suburban boom of the 20th century, when they helped people travel from jobs in the city to homes in the suburbs.

Today, there’s a movement to stop building and expanding these highways, and Strong Towns is a leading voice in that fight. There’s also a movement to try to undo the harm that they’ve already caused and remove them—or parts of them—altogether.

The Treme neighborhood of New Orleans has been home to one such highway for decades: the Claiborne expressway. Treme is an active, culturally rich community near the heart of the city, but it’s been harmed by the dust, noise, disruption, pollution, crime, and economic disinvestment that resulted from this highway cutting through the neighborhood. Amy Stelly, whose family has been in Treme for decades, is helping lead a fight to remove that highway for good.

She’s an urban planner and artist who knows what the neighborhood was like before this highway and sees how its removal could help local businesses thrive, help more residents invest in their homes, and make Treme a safer, more enjoyable place to live and spend time—not just a place to speed through quickly.

To help fellow residents see that potential and push for that change, she’s led community gatherings, activism, and poster campaigns to show what Treme could be without the highway. On this episode of The Bottom-Up Revolution podcast, she shares a wealth of candid insights about the need for highway removal and the process to make it happen.

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