Rethinking Highway Expansions

The tide may be turning—albeit slowly—against new road construction and expansion in favor of more climate-friendly alternatives.

2 minute read

September 26, 2022, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


While many transportation agencies continue to expand highways, some major cities are shifting away from building more roads, bucking decades of car-centric planning. As Jared Brey reports in Governing, a few isolated cases are raising hopes that highway expansion will no longer be the status quo.

In Denver, a new rule from the Colorado Department of Transportation requiring metro areas to measure their greenhouse gas emissions prompted the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) to reconsider plans to expand Interstate 25, opting instead to “focus on safety and traffic flow improvements over making the road bigger.”

Another notorious project, the proposed expansion of the 710 corridor in Los Angeles—a key route from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to distribution centers—was officially canceled this May after decades of activism from local communities who experienced harmful health effects. According to the article, “Community groups created their own alternative plan for the 710 freeway, which focused on clean-energy transport of goods, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, improvements to the L.A. River — and no new general-purpose traffic lanes.”

Unfortunately, Brey points out that Denver and L.A. are still exceptions to the rule, and billions in federal infrastructure funding are still being funneled to road expansion projects around the country. Planetizen recently highlighted the annual Highway Boondoggles report, which details some of the biggest and most wasteful highway expansion and construction projects in the nation.

Friday, September 23, 2022 in Governing

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