While the highway’s intended use was to improve traffic, the potential route produced biological, ethical and political controversies in the Durham community. As a result of the federal government passing the National Environmental Policy Act in 1970, an environmental impact statement was required before any building began(EPA). According to the report, the highway would destroy natural wildlife, increase susceptibility to wind damage on trees, increase noise pollution, and create a “spatial barrier” that would divide the natural habitat in two (Federal Highway Administration).
This concept of spatial barrier also presented itself in some of the ethical arguments for not building the expressway. Construction for part of the highway began in the 1960’s and displaced the Hayti community, which was a thriving historically black neighborhood in Durham(People’s Alliance). Similarly, The Crest Street Community was a small, poor, and predominately black community that lived in the proposed project right-of-way(Lane). The new expressway would divide the close knit community and require the residents to relocate. Starting in 1978, advocates aided the Crest Street Community in voicing their objection to the highway. One such group was the People’s Alliance, who stated in A Case Against The East-West Expressway Extension: A People’s Alliance Position Paper that “the East-West expressway would bring a repeat of the sordid destruction of Hayti wrought this time on the stable black community”(People’s Alliance). During this period of controversy, Elizabeth Friedman conducted a sociological survey to provide insight on the impact the highway may have on the Crest Street Community. According to the survey, 55% of CSC residents had five or more relatives living in the same community and 38% of CSC residents had ten or more relatives living in the same community(Friedman). It is evident that the Crest Street Community had formed a close, tight-knit neighborhood and the highway would scatter this sense of community. Therefore, the construction of the East-West expressway became a question of ethicality: Should a new highway that will supposedly make travel to Durham more efficient be built at the expense of a displaced black community?
The proposed highway runs from A to B. (“Highway 147 Route.” Google Maps.)
This map depicts the prospective route of the new expressway. (A Case Against The East-West Expressway Extension: A People’s Alliance Position Paper. Durham Chapter, People’s Alliance, Durham, NC. 1978)
This map depicts the separation of the Crest Street Community as a result of the proposed expressway construction. (Title VI Administrative Complaint, Mitigation and Enhancement Plan, Housing of Last Resort, Collaborative Planning.)