SINCE OUR NATION’S earliest days, America has been fixated on our roads, be they yellow brick, high or low, or the one less traveled. The United States has 4 million miles of roads, covering a surface area equivalent to that of South Carolina. They represent freedom, possibility, connection, and even escape. They are the circulation system of our culture and economy, shaping where we live and work, how we transfer goods, how we access services.
But roads have another side as well: a harmful one. Roads are the site of 30,000 deaths every year, but even beyond the obvious dangers, the network has its own, unintended effects on the country. Roads erode soils, trap heat, and disrupt wildlife habitat; they are expensive to create and even more so to maintain.