In an era when suburbs had just begun to grow, DiMento* says, “local politicians saw urban freeways as a way of bringing suburban commuters into city.” Some local businesspeople supported them for similar reasons. But an unmistakable part of the equation was the federally supported program of “urban renewal,” in which lower-income urban communities—mostly African-American—were targeted for removal. “The idea was ‘let’s get rid of the blight,'” says DiMento. “And places that we’d now see as interesting, multi-ethnic areas were viewed as blight.” Highways were a tool for justifying the destruction of many of these areas.
“Highways gutted American cities. So why did they build them?” in Vox
* – Joseph DiMento, author of Changing Lanes: Visions and Histories of Urban Freeways