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UMass Amherst study shows low income communities in Mass. are twice as likely to have poor roads

 A pothole that has been unfilled for over a year on Riverside Road in Springfield.
Elizabeth Román
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NEPM
A pothole that has been unfilled for over a year on Riverside Road in Springfield.

A new study out of UMass Amherst shows how poorly maintained roads disproportionately impact residents in low income communities across the state.

Neighborhoods in western Massachusetts communities like Springfield and Holyoke were included, according to Jessica Boakye, one of the authors of the study and assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UMass Amherst.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, evaluated the quality of roads in EJ communities and how that may influence gas consumption.
Submitted
/
UMass Amherst
The study, published in Scientific Reports, evaluated the quality of roads in EJ communities and how that may influence gas consumption.

Boakye said a significant reason why these issues arise in minority communities is because of redlining, which is the practice of denying people access to credit because of where they live.

“When you talk about housing and you talk about minority communities, you have to really talk about redlining and how some populations like the black population… we weren't allowed to purchase houses,” Boakye said. “We didn't have the capital to get a house. So you're stuck in this cycle of renting. You might not be renting a house that has great quality. That house that doesn’t have great quality might next be next to a highway and it's hard to just kind of keep those maintained.”

Egemen Okte is one of the authors of the study and said analyzing infrastructure in these communities is widely overlooked.

"We look at cost, we look at environmental impact. But we don't really look at this,” Okte said. “We really want to move this forward to, you know, what are the tools we can give to either individual agencies or townships such that they can also look at this themselves."

Okte said he and other researchers are looking for solutions to these road issues and hope to present their study to lawmakers to see which policy would actually yield the most equitable outcome.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.