More to the story

The Durham East End Connector controversy has mentioned very little about environmental justice (“The price of progress,” cover story, by Mosi Secret, Sept. 19). Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide environmental justice mitigation for federally funded transportation projects like the East End Connector. Environmental justice requires the DOT to “avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations.”

In the East Enda minority community repeatedly divided by highway projectsenvironmental justice must do more than simply reimburse people for their homes; NCDOT must include economic development opportunities if it realistically plans to mitigate the negative social and economic effects of another closed-access highway.

The connector may be necessary for Durham’s continued growth, but it isn’t necessary to further isolate the East End. Community members want the connector to bring outsiders into their neighborhood, but they face a serious challenge attracting people to an area ravaged by disinvestment from previous highway projects.

Including economic development in mitigation efforts would provide desperately needed capital to rebuild the community’s economic and social fabric. Without some effort to develop the East End’s economic assets, NCDOT will only reinforce the historic pattern of discriminatory community destruction inherent in Durham’s transportation decision-making.

Mari Howe
Chapel Hill