ST. PAUL, MN— Today, the House Transportation Finance & Policy discussed equity solutions in transportation policy for St. Paul’s Rondo community. Coinciding with the start Black History Month, committee members received an overview of the impacts of Interstate Highway 94’s construction on the Black residents and families of Rondo.
“It is critical that we understand the history of the destruction of the Rondo neighborhood and how the impacts of I-94 continue today,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), chair of the House Transportation Committee. “Our task moving forward it to prioritize equity considerations in our transportation decisions.”
The legislative hearing received testimony from St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and leaders of ReConnect Rondo, who presented new documentation quantifying the financial damage inflicted on Minnesota’s largest concentration of African American families. The Rondo community never recovered from the destruction of more than 700 homes and 300 mostly Black-owned businesses, resulting in a $270 million gap— $370 million when including the greater Rondo South neighborhood.
ReConnect Rondo Chairman Marvin Roger Anderson and Executive Director Keith Baker, both testified to the committee about their hope this session for two pieces of legislation: One to fund the approximately $6 million of planning and pre-design costs for a land bridge over I-94; and the other to slot construction costs for the land bridge as part of the Legislature’s 2022 bonding bill.
“Creating an African American cultural enterprise district connected by a community land bridge is an extraordinary opportunity, not only as an amazing physical achievement, but also for the model it would powerfully represent as a way forward in addressing – and helping to heal -- racial disparities and injustice,” said Keith Baker.
Committee member Representative Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights), co-chair of the House Select Committee on Racial Justice, called the I-94 land bridge proposal, "a project of hope and reconciliation."
Marvin Anderson, a Rondo native and co-founder of Rondo Avenue, Inc., has long envisioned a land bridge as the centerpiece of an African American cultural enterprise district created through an equitable development framework that would keep gentrification in check, while helping to infuse his old neighborhood with jobs, affordable housing and the financial resources to better support its many social service organizations. Anderson’s father developed quality-built apartment buildings to afford Rondo’s Black residents improved living conditions — properties that were razed, and a family business shattered due to the construction of the highway.
For Anderson, the project is "an opportunity to heal and right the historical wrong."
Materials from the meeting can be accessed on the committee’s webpage.