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Research Documents the Negative Externalities of 20th Century Freeway Planning

According to a newly released working paper, people in 20th century noticed the air and noise pollution and severed neighborhoods caused by freeways, and many of those people chose to move to the suburbs rather than deal with the nuisance.
July 12, 2019, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ken Lund

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released a working paper [pdf] recently that documents the detrimental effects of freeways on quality of life in central urban areas.

As explained in an article by Darryl C. Murphy, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia "took a broad look at how highways have contributed to suburbanization, and the subsequent decline of U.S. cities during the 20th century. "

"They found that between 1950 and 2010 highways slowed growth in income, population, and land values in city centers, while having the opposite effect in outlying areas," according to Murphy.

A key aspect of the narrative built in the paper is the history of "freeway revolts"—communities banding together to sway the final product of the Interstate highway system where it passed through urban areas. The study documents the changes these revolts were able to produce in the final freeway products of urban areas.

Despite the location of the authors who wrote this working paper, the research focuses specifically on examples from Boston, Chicago, and Detroit.

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Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in PlanPhilly
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