Jan 11, 2011

Decades after the completion of most interstate freeways, many transportation authorities have turned their attention to expanding existing freeways. A new OTREC research report examines the consequences for American urban areas if all freeway expansion stopped.

Titled “No More Freeways,” the report concludes that investing in arterial streets instead of expanding freeways provides the greatest social benefit for the cost. Doing so distributes roadway capacity throughout the area instead of concentrating it on freeway corridors.

The “no-more-freeway” policy helps distribute jobs and housing throughout the urban area and makes it easier to get around, principal investigator Lei Zhang found. Zhang modeled various transportation alternatives for both a hypothetical urban area and a real-world system: Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Compared with various public, private and mixed-ownership scenarios for freeway expansion, arterial street investments perform better over the first eight years. By year 10, the model shows, public-private and public freeway investments provide a greater net social benefit, assuming a 3-percent-per-year increase in travel demand.

Factors not considered in the model, namely transit and land use, would make the “no-more-freeways” option a better choice for a longer period, Zhang posits. Changes in land use from this option could cause...

Read more