Transportation: Mileage of Paved Roads

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Miles of Paved Roads


What does miles of paved roads include?      

Miles of paved roads incorporates primary and secondary paved roads, but excludes unnumbered, private access, or fire department rural roads. 


How does the amount of miles of paved roads affect environmental quality?

A steady increase in miles of paved roads indicates an increase in private vehicle usage.  Road paving is a cycle - more traffic results in the need for more roads, new and widened roads encourage more drivers, more drivers create increased traffic, traffic accumulates again until new roads are paved.  Thus, increasing paved roads results in: more private vehicles which raise air pollution due to car emissions, more roads which increases impervious surface cover, and a decrease in green space which results in habitat loss and recreation. 

While air quality degradation is a side-effect of more paved roads it will be discussed further under the sub-attribute ‘number of registered vehicles.’  As for impervious surface cover, the environmental effects include: less infiltration, higher quantity and velocity of runoff, increased silting of streams and rivers, and increased stream bank and channel erosion.  These consequences reduce watershed health, which affects floodplains, reservoirs, and wildlife habitat.


How does the amount of miles of paved roads affect sustainability?

Increasing paved roads is not sustainable due to environmental degradation of air, watersheds, and biodiversity.  Sustainable and effective transportation systems can be implemented without the construction of more roads by expanding alternative modes of transport (such as pedestrian and bike paths, bus routes, and light rail systems). 

Reduction in miles of paved roads improves environmental quality.  Demolishing paved roads and replacing them with green space or vegetation is a sustainable practice.   However, the more likely scenario is the destruction of a road for development.  Although replacing pavement with another form of impervious surface cover means that watershed health and biodiversity will still suffer, it is a more sustainable solution than developing an intact natural area.


How does miles of paved roads interconnect with other indicators?

            Miles of paved roads has significant effects on water quality.  Economic effects include the amount of tax dollars spent to construct and maintain roads, although you should also consider the positive impact of Department of Transportation (DOT) funding on the construction industry in your region.      


Next step?

            Examine the database on miles of paved roads. 


Miles of Paved Roads Data   


Author: Elisa Mayes