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City Limits: Infrastructure, Inequality, and the Future of America's Highways (Hardcover)
An eye-opening investigation into how our ever-expanding urban highways accelerated inequality and fractured communities—and a call for a more just, sustainable path forward
“City Limits is a triumph. Kimble echoes Robert Caro exposing how powerful groups like TxDOT are able to take away people’s homes, destroy their neighborhoods, and run roughshod over communities with virtually no accountability.”—Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class
Every major American city has a highway tearing through its center. Seventy years ago, planners sold these highways as progress, essential to our future prosperity. The automobile promised freedom, and highways were going to take us there. Instead, they divided cities, displaced people from their homes, chained us to our cars, and locked us into a high-emissions future. And the more highways we built, the worse traffic got. Nowhere is this more visible than in Texas. In Houston, Dallas, and Austin, residents and activists are fighting against massive, multi-billion-dollar highway expansions that will claim thousands of homes and businesses, entrenching segregation and sprawl.
In City Limits, journalist Megan Kimble weaves together the origins of urban highways with the stories of ordinary people impacted by our failed transportation system. In Austin, hundreds of families will lose child care if a preschool is demolished to expand Interstate 35. In Houston, a young Black woman will lose her brand-new home to a new lane on Interstate 10—just blocks away from where a seventy-four-year-old nurse lost her home in the 1960s when that same highway was built. And in Dallas, an urban planner has improbably found himself at the center of a national conversation about highway removal. What if, instead of building our aging roads wider and higher, we removed those highways altogether? It’s been done before, first in San Francisco and, more recently, in Rochester, where Kimble traces how highway removal has brought new life to a divided city.
With propulsive storytelling and ground-level reporting, City Limits exposes the enormous social and environmental costs wrought by our allegiance to a life of increasing speed and dispersion, and brings to light the people who are fighting for a more sustainable, connected future.
About the Author
Megan Kimble is an investigative journalist and the author of Unprocessed. A former executive editor at The Texas Observer, Kimble writes about housing, transportation, and urban development for The New York Times, Texas Monthly, The Guardian, and Bloomberg CityLab. She lives in Austin, Texas.
“If your commute is a nightmare, or if you have had enough of the concrete and asphalt jungle that many America cities have become, read this book. It's an urgent dispatch from the front lines of the fight to reclaim cities from cars and highways and their legacy of racism, injustice, and climate change. City Limits is not just a compelling read—it’s a roadmap to a better world.”—Jeff Goodell, New York Times bestselling author of The Heat Will Kill You First
“As dams are to living salmon streams, highways are to living cities. Nothing could be more heartening than the growing movement—powerfully chronicled in City Limits—to move past this sad stage in our country’s development, and on to something new and old that works for people, not cars.”—Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature
“If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic and wondered, How did this all get so ugly and infuriating?, this is the book for you. Megan Kimble turns the history of highway construction into something much larger: a treatise on power and possibility. The lessons Kimble draws from the people trying to stop highway construction provide hope that these things can come down just as quickly as they went up. In doing so, Kimble proves that the world can change faster than we think.”—P. E. Moskowitz, author of How to Kill a City
“City Limits is a triumph. It shows how our highways and roads do more than just move us around, they play a crucial role in organizing our society and dividing our cities across the lines of race and class. Megan Kimble echoes Robert Caro exposing how powerful groups like TxDOT are able to take away people’s homes, destroy their neighborhoods, and run roughshod over communities with virtually no accountability.”—Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class
“Megan Kimble’s paradigm-shifting City Limits details how American cities came to so completely revolve around cars—to the detriment of the people who live in those cities and suburbs, and to the families and communities that highways have displaced. Through Kimble’s excellent reporting and analysis, we meet the nationwide coalition of ‘freeway fighters’ who are daring to imagine a better way.”—Roxanna Asgarian, author of We Were Once a Family
“Few books about public policy feel so relevant to so many peoples’ daily lives—and commutes—as Megan Kimble’s City Limits, a definitive, neighborly guide to how our cities got so sliced up by highways, the damage they’ve done to communities and the climate, and the many great ideas for how we could replace them, if only we can organize ourselves.”—Maurice Chammah, author of Let the Lord Sort Them