How Fiscal Politics Shaped Urban Freeways and Transformed American Cities

Research Team: Brian Taylor (lead) and Eric Morris

UC Campus(es): UCLA

Problem Statement: There is a growing interest in addressing the many harms caused by the mass freeway building in American cities more than a half-century ago. Less studied than the effects of urban freeways is how the drive for federal dollars motivated this freeway building boom in the first place, and what we might learn about the politics of transportation finance to better craft transportation policies today.

Project Description: This research transforms many years of research on the politics of freeway finance conducted with two former UCLA students (Jeffrey Brown at Florida State and Eric Morris at Clemson) into a refereed book Drive for Dollars published by Oxford University Press. The premise of this book is that American cities are distinct from almost all others in the degree to which freeways and freeway travel dominate urban landscapes. It tells the largely misunderstood story of how freeways became the centerpiece of U.S. urban transportation systems, and the crucial, though usually overlooked, role of fiscal politics in bringing freeways about. The researchers chronicle how the ways that people both raise and spend transportation revenue have shaped our transportation system and the lives of those who use it, from the pre-automobile era to the present day. The main focus, however, is on how the development of one revolutionary type of road—the freeway—was inextricably intertwined with the intricacies of transportation finance. With the nation’s transportation finance system at a crossroads today, this book sheds light on how individuals can best plan and fund transportation in the future. The book draws on these lessons to offer ways forward to pay for transportation more equitably, provide travelers with better mobility, and increase environmental sustainability and urban livability.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $10,000

Policy Brief(s):