In an expensive effort to curb congestion in urban regions, we have overwhelmingly prioritized one strategy for decades: widening and building new highways. We added 30,511 new freeway lane-miles of road in the largest 100 urbanized areas between 1993 and 2017, an increase of 42 percent. That rate of road expansion significantly outstripped the 32 percent growth in population in those regions over the same time period. Yet this strategy has utterly failed to “solve” congestion. Even in areas where population has decreased while highway lanes have increased, congestion has gotten worse.
Congestion Con exposes the real cost of expanding highways and challenges the notion that eliminating congestion is even the right goal for our transportation system.