Highway construction represented a massive infrastructure investment in the 20th century and improved access, commuting, and trade. Nonetheless, it has long been recognized that there were potential negative effects for nearby neighborhoods, particularly in central cities. Today, many cities are mitigating some of the negative effects of freeways through expensive measures to cap or bury sections of freeways. Do these projects justify the costs? In this article, we summarize evidence of freeways' effects on quality of life and discuss the potential benefits of real-world policy interventions in Philadelphia. Specifically, we find that Philadelphia could mitigate freeway disamenities at the neighborhood level while improving the regional economy by covering or capping some of its old highways.
This article appeared in the First Quarter 2022 issue of Economic Insights. Download and read the full issue.