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“Do we even want roads?”

  • by JW

Do we want ‘levelling up’ to the tune of a £15m+ road?


Fabulous news! Exmouth is getting over £15m to do some levelling-up!

And for … a road… Levelling Up funding for projects in Devon – News and Multi-million pound investment secured to Level Up Exmouth | The Devon Daily

But should we really be seeing more road as a priority?

How much evidence do we need? 

New roads = more traffic: What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse | WIRED (2014) Building More Roads Does Not Ease Congestion | Smart Cities Dive (2017) Expanding highways and building more roads actually makes traffic worse – Curbed (2020) Why building more highways won’t make your commute any better – Environmental Defence (2020)

New roads = more pollution: “Significant air pollution” in Sidmouth – update – Vision Group for Sidmouth (May 2022) and Air pollution | Friends of the Earth (January 2023)

New roads = higher taxes: Futures Forum: Subsidies and social engineering: or why we build roads.

As for this last point, here’s a piece from the Foundation for Economic Freedom in the States just out – with a libertarian take on why new roads are actually… a con:

The Interstate Highway System cost $558 billion to construct (in 2021 dollars). Proponents claim it boosted the economy through faster transportation, and increased house prices and job creation. But, as I explain in my recent Substack article, it also had hugely negative effects, including destruction of the railroad industry, the demolition of vast amounts of homes and other property, and the decimation of inner-city economies...

Prior to the explosion of government roadbuilding, railroads had been improving their passenger services to attract passengers and compete with cars and airplanes. But, after the Second World War, their passenger numbers crashed as new, free-to-use roads sprung up everywhere. Railroad passenger numbers declined from 770 million to 220 million between 1946 and 1964 (government-built airports also contributed). Imagine the kind of high-speed trains and luxury travel America might have today if that hadn’t happened...

Don’t Ask ‘Who Will Build the Roads?’ Ask ‘Do We Even Want Roads?’ – Foundation for Economic Education