Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



Americans Know Expanding Roads Doesn’t Fix Traffic

A new survey shows that most Americans know that expanding roads doesn’t fix traffic. Why do states keep pursuing these harmful projects?

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Automobile congestion is as old as the automobile itself — people have been getting stuck in traffic since the earliest days of the car. Governments have been trying to fix traffic for just as long. But 100 years later, the same old solution — more and bigger roads — just leads to more driving.

A new survey commissioned by Smart Growth America, America Walks, and the Natural Resources Defense Council shows American voters have caught on faster than politicians to the reality that wider roads cause more congestion. Two thirds of survey respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that “expanding highways takes years, causes delays, and costs billions of dollars” and “widening highways attracts more people to drive, which creates more traffic in the long run.” One third identified enhanced public transit or new sidewalks as the best long-term solutions to traffic. On the other hand, just one in ten respondents thought adding lanes was the best solution, and even fewer thought new highways and freeways were the best solution.

The survey, conducted by Hattaway Communications, shows that transportations investments made by state governments are often out of step with Americans’ attitudes towards solutions for reducing traffic. A 2021 Washington Post report estimated that state departments of transportation (DOTs) are spending approximately $19 billion a year on highway expansions. These projects are sold with promises of reduced congestion and justified by the idea that Americans want more roads. The survey found that this idea isn’t true.

The superficial logic behind roadway expansions is that there are too many cars in too little space, so making more space should help. There are a few problems here. The first is that this solution does not work because of a phenomenon called induced demand. When a new road is built or an existing road is expanded more people drive, more fossil fuels are burned, and overall congestion stays the same or even gets worse. Transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the country, and more driving moves us further from our climate goals.

In addition to leading to more driving and carbon emissions, road expansions come with unacceptable human costs. Highways have been routed through communities of color since the dawn of the interstate system — often with the deliberate goal of destroying these communities. Vulnerable people are still fighting displacement, and those who remain in their neighborhoods are exposed to pollution that leads to elevated rates of asthma, heart disease, and other life-threatening medical conditions.

The lesson from this survey is clear: Americans are ahead of their leaders when it comes to recognizing the path forward on congestion. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law roughly doubled federal transportation spending, but if we do not change how and where this money is spent, then congestion and pollution will only get worse. Money from the law is distributed to state DOTs, which then make the decisions on how the money is spent — often relying on outdated assumptions about travel and rarely incorporating meaningful community input. DOTs can continue to expand highways, or they can put the money into sustainable transportation. This choice will mean the difference between making progress on our sustainable transportation goals and exacerbating the status quo.

Highway expansions are bad for people and bad for the environment. Americans recognize that there is a better path forward. With a once-in-a-generation amount of money flowing to state DOTs, we must take that better path now.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

EV Obsession Daily!

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.
Written By

NRDC is the nation's most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.


You May Also Like


New Report from Arup and the Natural Resources Defense Council Outlines Building, Construction Decarbonization Opportunities

Climate Change

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News! The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is the world’s...

Clean Power

Clean energy and transmission projects can bring benefits to the communities that host them. Inviting local interests to the planning table helps ensure that.

Fossil Fuels

New analysis predicts declining oil demand and rising exports over the next three decades, even with no new offshore leasing.

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.