The Atlantic has a good piece about the decades-long decline of Syracuse, NY, – my home town – a small rust-belt city that shares, in outline, the history of many Northeast and Midwest cities. Robust growth from mid-late 19th to mid-late 20th centuries, founded on manufacturing and transportation, was followed by slow but continual economic decline as manufacturing businesses left or closed, and social dis-integration as many white, affluent families moved to suburbs. Syracuse University and a large health-care complex are the remaining symbols and a major engine of the still-troubled economy today. Gentrification has renewed just a couple of in-city neighborhoods, but many more are continuing to decline.
Interstate 81 was built through the city from north to south, 50 years ago, and its elevated stretch through downtown is near the end of its life. The city and state are deciding now whether to rebuild it, or alternatively NOT rebuild it, redevelop that area and allow the Interstate route to follow an existing suburban bypass (I-481, analogous to I-405).
The story is a good read, though the headline is needlessly crude: construction of the Interstate through the city made things worse, but that’s far from the whole story of the past 50 years. The article is much more nuanced and informative.