From Redlining to Green Streets in Toledo, Ohio

  • Author: Laurel Schwartz
  • Date: January 9, 2024

In the 1960s and 70s, highways were built through a vibrant Black neighborhood in this medium-sized city, cutting the community in half and leading to economic decline. To revitalize these disadvantaged neighborhoods, Toledo is using a Department of Transportation (DOT) Raising American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant to modernize transit options for 38 square blocks.

U.S. News and World Report recently named Toledo one of the most affordable places to live. With a median home price of $157,983, the cost of living is relatively low. Yet the City’s poverty rate is almost twice the national average. And while the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) operates 30 fixed bus routes, the cityscape is currently designed to protect cars more than pedestrians, bicyclists, and public transit patrons.

In the 1960s, the construction of I-75 separated the historically Black middle-class neighborhoods of Junction and Uptown and displaced much of the community’s population. Central city streets were widened to accommodate faster car traffic, and today those roads have fallen into disrepair.

To revitalize these communities, in 2021 a regional committee developed a comprehensive economic development strategy plan, which included a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis, an action plan, and an evaluation framework to assess the project’s progress. In June 2023, the USDOT awarded $20 million to fund infrastructure improvements to restore these neighborhoods.

“This opportunity to connect us back to justice, to connect us back to life, to connect us back to who we are as a city is key. It is key to understand that you cannot separate anymorqe. But you have to come together in a big way,” said Alicia Smith, a representative of community group Junction Coalition.

The Plan

Toledo’s RAISE grant will fund 6.5 miles of road repairs, a multi-use pedestrian path connecting Junction and Uptown, utility upgrades, tree canopy expansion, and a TARTA Mobility Hub. While the intrusive I-75 overpass will remain, its sidewalk will be enhanced to be more attractive, safer, and pedestrian friendly. An additional bike parkway will be added, connecting the path with a local park and a newly renovated library.

“Our plan to enhance pedestrian safety, expand bicycle infrastructure, and create vibrant streetscapes will tie together fragmented active transportation networks and connect Toledo residents to new opportunities, new jobs, and new quality of life,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

The TARTA Mobility Hub will be a multi-modal resource, including scooter and bike shelters, free wi-fi, and structural upgrades to ensure Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The City recently launched a successful pilot partnership program with mobility company Veo, offering dockless scooters and bicycles for rent. The City anticipates this program to continue at the Mobility Hub.

“According to Veo, the program has been one of the most successful in the company’s history, further highlighting the need for affordable and reliable transportation options in the city. Despite a successful launch, there have also been seven accidents related to Veo in the project area, which highlights the need for safer infrastructure for non-motorized transportation users,” the City of Toledo wrote in their RAISE application.

Anticipated Challenges

Because the I-75 overpass will remain, the City’s comprehensive mobility strategy still needs to plan around cars. A new YMCA, for example, will only be accessible to the regional bike network after constructing a multipurpose path paralleling the interstate.

The project will be completed in four phases over six years. To mitigate financial risk, the City included a 15% inflation factor and 10% contingency into the project’s overall budget. Toledo intends to bid out the design work for the project, and was conservative in their construction schedule to accommodate potential delays.

“This grant empowers us to nurture a thriving Toledo Social Innovation District that will define the next 50 years in Toledo’s history,” Mayor Kapszukiewicz said. “The impact this project will have on our community cannot be overstated.”


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