(January 2010) Living near roads: exploring the trade-off between accessibility and environmental effects

Living near roads: exploring the trade-off between accessibility and environmental effects image
Road projects are generally viewed as regional economic development issues. Macro-scale accessibility problems in a region or part of the country are often the primary reason for considering new road infrastructure early in the planning process. However, regional accessibility gains are not the only relevant impact; road infrastructure development has also large positive and negative consequences on its direct environment. On the positive side, improved road capacity makes the development of new working, housing or leisure development near roads attractive - the so-called highway locations. For the people who live in the vicinity of a road, poor air quality, noise exposure, local traffic, barrier effect and blocked views all contribute to a decrease of (local) environmental quality. Apart from health problems, it may also affect people's residential satisfaction, pushing them to move houses. Not surprisingly, road infrastructure development provokes frequently (local) public resistance - the so-called not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon. Unfortunately, in current Dutch planning practice these negative (environmental) side effects of road are, generally speaking, considered only in a late stage of the planning process. Environmental impacts are assessed and mitigated in order to make the project acceptable with respect to formal regulations and to get planning approval. Although a project may conform to formal environmental quality standards, the various groups of people in the neighbourhood may perceive the externalities rather different. This research aims at gaining insights into the role that road-related factors play in households' residential satisfaction (and location preferences) and to use these insights to give recommendations to improve infrastructure planning approaches.

To attain this goal, the following research questions are addressed.
1.To what extent do the positive and negative effects associated to a road infrastructure (adjustment) influence property values? How does road proximity influence this relationship?
2.To what extent do the positive effects and negative externalities associated to a road infrastructure (adjustment) affect the residential satisfaction of households?
3.To what extent can insights into households' residential satisfaction be used to formulate recommendations to improve Dutch road infrastructure planning?

To answer these questions both qualitative and quantitative methods will be used. In a first step, a desk research and a small number of explorative in-depth expert interviews will be conducted. Then, hedonic pricing method will be used to answer the first research question, i.e. to understand to what extent road proximity, and related positive and negative effects, influence housing prices. In a second phase, a quantitative research including a household questionnaire will be carried out to understand how people actually value (different aspects of) road infrastructure and to what extent it affects their residential satisfaction. Finally, to answer the last question, insights from personal interviews and/or group discussions with policy-makers, together with the knowledge derived from the two first questions will be used.