Reconnecting Communities by Fighting Freeways – America Walks is All In

As we expand our staff, we’re also taking on new issues at America Walks. 

Our new Advocacy Manager Ben Crowther has helped establish America Walks as a host of the Freeway Fighters Network, a coalition of local campaigns from across the country fighting highway expansions and advocating to reconnect communities. Alongside our partner the Congress for the New Urbanism, we’re assisting the Network in tracking over 70 freeway fighting efforts across the country and coordinating their collective efforts to overhaul America’s unsustainable transportation paradigm.

Freeway Fighters
Photo Credit: Rethink35

Who are the Freeway Fighters?

Early in the Interstate era, an initial cadre of freeway fighters contested the misleading narrative of progress so often associated with highway building. Grassroots advocacy groups like the Movement Against Destruction, the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, and People Before Highways recognized the massive damage highways cause to communities. Highways sever whole neighborhoods–disproportionately those home to communities of color– and prioritize the movement of cars over people. 
Today, the second round of freeway fighters has emerged and together have formed the Freeway Fighters Network. The goal is simple: to stop damage from new highway building and reconnect communities already divided by highways. For too long, the United States has relied on highway systems that damage the environment and cause social, economic, and physical harm to the people who live in their path.

About the Freeway Fighters Network

In May 2021, a handful of local campaigns fighting highway expansions and advocating to reconnect communities gathered virtually, with the aim of networking with compatriots in other cities and towns. Since that first gathering, the Freeway Fighters Network has taken joint action to support programs that reconnect communities at the federal level and has evolved into a forum for peer-to-peer information sharing. To date, over 35 local organizations and 270 individual members have participated in the Network, which has its own website, listserv, and Discord server

In addition to fighting freeways in their own communities and strengthening each other’s campaigns, Network members advocate for a larger shift in transportation public policy to support the following principles:

  • a commitment to stop expanding highways and building new ones;
  • the transformation of existing highways that damage communities into assets like city streets, housing, and green space;
  • renewed investments in multimodal transportation systems in place of highways;
  • parallel investments in community development that builds wealth for current residents and allows them to enjoy the benefits of a highway’s transformation;
  • a priority to make amends to the people displaced or negatively affected by highway building.

What’s the role of America Walks in the Freeway Fighters Network?

America Walks acts as a convener for the Freeway Fighters Network and brings together the frontline efforts of members into a collective voice for prioritizing people before highways. We work with Network members to identify the common challenges and issues they face living near a highway and shine a national spotlight on the need for change. We elevate their successes too, to demonstrate that there is another route forward, one that centers inclusive mobility and community development.

So how do I get involved?

The Freeway Fighters Network is open to all. Stay updated on Network announcements, opportunities, and upcoming events by signing up for our newsletter. Want to connect directly with other freeway fighters? Join either the listserv or Discord server (or both!) And be sure to mark Thursday, May 19 at 5pm ET on your calendar for the May Freeway Fighters virtual meetup