Improving Understanding About How Highway Capacity Influences Development and Land Use Patterns

Focus Area

Land Use


Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes:  Not recommended at present time by 2009 Air Quality Subcommittee. 

The secondary effects of highway capacity expansion on development and land use patterns are often used to either justify or argue against highway projects. On the one hand, some communities, particularly in rural areas, want to encourage economic development and need a better understanding of how to make transportation decisions to encourage businesses to locate in their communities. On the other hand, many communities, particularly in urbanized areas, are concerned about sprawl, and need better ways to analyze the implications of highway capacity decisions on land use and
approaches to help control unintended development that may occur if highway capacity is added.

While there has been substantial research on transportation-land use relationships and a great increase in understanding of how land use patterns and urban form affect the demand for transportation, there remains a more limited understanding of the other side of the land use-transportation relationship: how transportation capacity influences development patterns. This research project seeks to develop a greater understanding of the extent to which transportation capacity influences development decisions, and to
identify practical approaches for coordinating land use and transportation to meet community goals.

Tasks: a) Develop a synthesis of research on how transportation capacity influences development decisions and land use patterns. This synthesis will rely upon land rent theory and research based on case studies and statistical analyses of transportation projects/systems and development patterns, and will identify relationships between highway capacity and land use change. b) Develop a methodology for projecting the potential effects of highway capacity
changes on land use patterns under different circumstances. This methodology should be devised to inform the development of integrated transportation and land use models. c) Use case studies to examine, document, and assess the strengths, weaknesses, and effectiveness of land use measures (such as access management and land use controls) to shape and control the secondary land use effects associated with highway projects. The role of technology and shifts in economic structure should be considered in terms of the degree to which they change the effectiveness of specific measures. d) Building off of previous studies, develop innovative approaches for tracking the effects of highway capacity projects on land use patterns (e.g., investigate approaches such as the ones used for the Highway 12 project in Wisconsin (Baraboo Hills) where a mitigation agreement required the tracking of housing permits issued in the affected area to assess the project’s land use effects). e) Document the results of Tasks a) to d) in a guidebook and reference document for transportation and land use practitioners involved in the development of transportation system and land use plans. The guidebook and reference document will identify approaches to better coordinate land use and highway capacity expansion to achieve community goals.


Urgency and Payoff

The products of this research will be a synthesis of research on how transportation capacity influences development decisions/land use patterns, methodologies for predicting the potential land use effects of highway development, and a guidebook for improving coordination of land use and transportation plans. The research synthesis will be designed to improve understanding of the factors that influence the extent to which highway development influences land use decisions, and will identify relationships which can be used to improve integrated transportationl and use models. The guidebook will identify and describe approaches to better coordinate land use and highway capacity expansion to achieve community goals, which may include limiting development, encouraging economic development, or encouraging specific types of development. The guidebook will include case study examples of how these approaches have been applied, what has worked well, and what have been limitations, and will be geared toward transportation and land use practitioners and decision-makers.

The results of this research are important for a number of reasons: 1) first, better
understanding of the effects of transportation capacity on development will enable
development of improved modeling and analysis techniques for predicting the land use
and various other secondary and indirect impacts associated with highway projects; 2) an
improved understanding of the role of transportation in development decisions will also
help decision makers to better understand the extent to which highway development
alters development choices and patterns compared to other factors, like market
conditions, social policy, and land use plans, and to respond to community concerns; and
3) increased understanding of these effects will help in communicating to the public and
elected officials about the ramifications of projects so that more constructive dialogues
can be engaged with environmental groups, community leaders, the general public, and
decision makers about coordinated land use-transportation planning to meet public policy

Suggested By

Interim Planning Activities for a Future Strategic Highway Research Program: Study 4 - Capacity, Transportation Research Board (2003)

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