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 work explores 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. It chronicles 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 work sheds light on how individuals can best plan and fund transportation in the future.

Status: Completed

Budget: $10,000

Policy Brief(s):

Associated Resources and Information: