Smart Growth Strategies for Rural Communities with a Focus on Secondary & Cumulative Effects Associated with Interchange Projects

Focus Area

Indirect Effects/Cumulative Impacts


Air Quality, Environmental Process







Research Idea Scope

1. Provide an overview of FHWA procedures for determining the secondary & cumulative impacts of interchange locations specially in suburban and rural America

2. Review "smart growth" literature and intitiatives in ten (10) case studies across America.

 3. Study three completed limited access highway projects. Review mitigation sections of NEPA EIS for each project. Compare projected impacts to what actually occurred as a result of highway & interchange location and construction. Develop a normative model to quantify impacts such as land conservation, water pollution etc. Compare impacts against certain realities of land use planning and control devices. Qualify a risk level for municipalities. Basically document why some municipalities had success in controlling impacts while others haven’t.

 4. Predict and discuss what could happen to places that have little state of planning and regulations.

Urgency and Payoff

The challenge of developing a smart growth model and initiating smart growth strategy in rural areas are not as well understood, because widely accepted principles of smart growth are perceived as most amendable to areas of relatively dense population.

A fundamental challenge and benefit to smart growth in a rural setting is the considerable pressure which can be placed on landowners to sell large, contiguous areas of open space to developers, both to avoid rising taxes and reap capital gains. Such transfers can rapidly erode the quality of rural life by decimating scenic vistas, destroying resource based economies centered on family farm, forestry, and the loss of rural main street to commercial areas. The secondary and cumulative consequences and effects of increased traffic, increased impervious surfaces, and increases in water and air pollution can combine to have significant impacts.

Smart growth models are proliferating in urban and suburban communities. The need for smart growth planning initiatives in rural areas surrounding rapidly developing urban and suburban regions is quite obvious. One only need to drive the fringe outside developing areas, examine the land use changes in and around interstate interchanges and realize the need for smart growth in rural areas. Developing a model for smart growth in rural areas is important. Sprawling rural development doesn’t mean the rural economy is healthy. There is a tremendous need for rural municipalities to recognize their economic and cultural attributes can attract support for development while fostering the sense of community which as been so important to rural America.

Suggested By

John T. Conroy, PBS&J (PhD Candidate Penn State Univ.)

[email protected]