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Department of Economics pres.

Economic History: Freeway Revolts! The Quality of Life Effects of Highways

Jeffrey Lin, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

economics economics

Why do freeways affect the spatial organization of the economy? We identify freeway disameni-ties in urban areas and quantify their effects. First, freeways had negative effects on central neighborhoods but positive effects on suburban neighborhoods. These diverging patterns iden-tify freeway disamenities in a theory where disamenities outweigh minimal access benefits near downtown, but superior access benefits outweigh disamenities on the periphery. Second, in a quantitative spatial general equilibrium model, the welfare costs of freeway disamenities are large, and one-third of the causal effect of freeways on central-city decline can be attributed to quality of life effects. Third, barrier effects are significant and a major factor in the dis-amenity value of living near a freeway. Disamenities from freeways, as opposed to their regional accessibility benefits, had large effects on the spatial structure of cities, suburbanization, and welfare.

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