When a government official takes a reporter out to see some concrete colossus, it’s usually to show it off. Not this time. On a recent spring morning, Matt Nichols, transportation director of Oakland, California, gazed down through a chain-link fence walling off a sidewalk overpass from the massive sunken freeway below — I-980, which runs between downtown Oakland and the historically black neighborhood of West Oakland.
Five lanes of traffic howled beneath his feet at 70 miles per hour. Throughout the 1970s, Nichols’ predecessors had argued that Oakland needed to build this freeway to thrive. But when Nichols looks at it, he doesn’t see a triumph of infrastructure.