There were no press conferences… no photo ops… nothing on the six o’clock news, but, make no mistake, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was in Baltimore to make a point. Foxx’s target audience for this 2016 workshop was not the electorate or even the local stakeholders; rather, the audience was Foxx’s own staff. He was using Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere to gain staff buy-in for policy changes he was instituting, bringing transportation equity factors into departmental decision-making.

Interviewed for Stop the Road, Foxx explained his thinking this way: 

“I didn’t want the issues to be abstract to my team. A lot of times, when you talk about rectifying wrongs of the past, they get reduced to platitudes and opaque concepts. Going to Baltimore for us was a ‘feel it’ kind of moment, where we wanted our team to talk to people who lived through it, which we did… We can talk about race and poverty and education and health, all these things in abstract terms. But when it gets real is where are you going to put the highway? Who is going to suffer the bisection of their community? What consequences does that have when it always seems to be the communities that are lowest on the economic [scale] and have the least economic mobility?”    

Foxx’s policy innovations were announced in the this Department of Transportation video. It opens with the central theme: “Transportation should not create division; transportation should be the solution to past division.” Baltimore’s Denise Johnson (also interviewed for Stop the Road) is featured in the video. 

See also: