No New Freeways?

A study from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) has concluded that building more freeways in metropolitan areas that are congested can actually make traffic jams worse, and that a no-freeways approach to traffic engineering and urban planning can be better for people and the environment. Of the alternative approach to new freeway building, the authors say, “From a practical perspective, a no-more-freeway policy can relieve transportation funds for other potentially more effective usages, such as improving urban arterial street system, improving transit level of service and coverage, implementing demand management and pricing strategies, and facilitating more efficient land use patterns (e.g. high density in-fill and transit-oriented developments).” (Source: TRB.org)

Building more freeways to address existing traffic problems is a short-term solution, that can be very expensive and actually contribute to bigger issues in the long-term. For example, in 1900 there were 149 miles of paved roads in the United States, and now there are about 4 million.  Cities like San Francisco, Portland and New York have all removed well-trafficked urban highways and seen improvements in congestion and quality of life.  In Seoul, Korea an urban highway was removed that had over 100,000 trips a day and yet there was less congestion when it was gone. The space it had been on was converted to a 1,000 acre farm with a restored stream. Summer temperatures were lower because there wasn’t a massive amount of concrete to absorb sunlight and stay hot, and there were more plants to improve air quality.

If the default mentality is to build more freeways and not light rail or new bus lines, taxpayers wind up footing enormously costly projects that produce dubious results and sometimes add to the problems. In Seattle, an aging highway has been considered for removal or replacement. Replacing it could cost billions and take years. Cary Moon, who opposes the new highway said, “If you try to build your way out of congestion, you’ll ruin your city or go broke trying.”  (Source: cnu.org)

An unfinished freeway in Milwaukee would have cost $100 million to complete but was removed for $25 million. Using the new space more wisely resulted in $300 million in development investments.

Another potential benefit is that less animals are killed in vehicle accidents, if there are fewer drivers and highways.

Image Credit: Public Domain

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17 comments

Lu Ann P.
Past Member 5 years ago

thx

Nancy Hardy
Nancy Hardy5 years ago

I love it! I say we start riding bicycles, carpools, walking, etc....! Not only is it good for us (riding bikes, walking) But it is great for our environment as well! The part about the cement making it hotter also makes sense as well as the increase in traffic (not to mention all the auto accidents) so I say NO more freeways and lets get rid of some we have! I am so sick of all the vehicles on the road!

Ernie Miller
william Miller5 years ago

Thanks sending to my friends tghat are planners

C. L.

This article raises some points that I hadn't thought of. Seems sensible...although it's hard for me to know about urban engineering & transportation, since I've never been trained in it.

Beth Weatherbee
Beth Weatherbee5 years ago

Interesting. TY.

It makes sense that if there were less roads, people would use more mass transit as well.

Lynn C.
Lynn C.5 years ago

YES!

Kate Kenner
Kate Kenner5 years ago

It all sounds good to me especially the part about less heat and less animals killed.

Amanda M.
Amanda M.5 years ago

Lynn Allen, what if you live in an area where there is literally no public transportation or you have a job that has weird hours? Kinda hard to find a carpool when you work, say, the midnight shift. And where we live (rural county) the public buses don't come out to our town and the cabs are ruinously expensive to a person on a blue-collar paycheck (try a minimum of 20 bucks ONE-WAY!).

I've got nothing against getting rid of the freeways in the big city areas, but they need to find alternatives as well for the commuters. Funny how near us they're hollering about expanding the highways, but are sitting on their butts about improving public transportation options. In the DC-Metro area, they're touting the Inter-County Connector (ICC), but something tells me they're not going to get as much action on that because they're making it a TOLL ROAD. What blue-collar worker can afford the tolls they're asking for it?

Sounds like their priorities need to be rearranged.

Cesar V.
Cesar Villanueva5 years ago

interesting

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez5 years ago

thanks for sharing!