Twin Cities- History in Relationship to I-94

Examining the history of the Twin Cities is often viewed in a partial light, which includes the existing Highway 94 because it symbolizes progress throughout the cities. Often times Minneapolis and St. Paul are thought to have always had this natural connection because after all the two cities are referred to as the Twin Cities. The gritty history can only be revealed when a close examination is taken to uncover the HOW factor. In my lifetime Highway 94 has always been in existence and from a personal standpoint has always been a method of convenience. What if this wasn’t the case for everyone? What if this point of convenience for me was actually a point of contention for someone else? Well let’s examine the HOW factor, at one point Highway 94 was not. Well we know that now it is. Okay how exactly did this point of convenience that allows me to travel between cities become to be?

According to The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City, “interstate highway construction had especially vicious consequences for black neighborhoods… [in many] cities, blacks had limited means of voicing their opposition.” (43). People often question the perception and dismiss the destruction of minority communities as nothing more than an anomaly. However, city after city has shown that this supposed anomaly has actually been the rule and not the exception. The intent is very clear, even with Highway 94 in the Twin Cities. Some cities went as far as to exclude African Americans from public hearings, in the South this practice was common under the guise of the Jim Crow law. Whereas, in other cities, “federally funded highways were instruments of white supremacy, wiping out black neighborhoods with clear but tacit intent.” (43). The tactic that was deployed by many of the decision makers was to divide and conquer.

“Despite the claims of some big-city mayors, such destruction was not an unfortunate consequence of progress. Rather, it was the product of individual decisions made within institutional frameworks, pushed by powerful private interests tied to downtown redevelopment. Highway builders and the city officials who approved their work had options. In the late 1940s, for example, St. Paul’s planning department considered two proposals for routing an east-west highway to link the central districts of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The central route ran directly along an east-west line between the two cities, which would wipe out the Rondo neighborhood, one of the few urban black neighborhoods of the upper Midwest. The northern route, however, ran northwest from St. Paul to Minneapolis, following a rail line that skirted industrial areas. Although some highway officials pressed for the northern route to preserve both white and black neighborhoods, Minnesota’s State Highway Department adopted the central route, against both internal dissent and the vociferous protest of Rondo’s community leaders.” (43, 45).

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