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The impact of interstate highways on land use conversion


  • Chris Mothorpe


  • Andrew Hanson


  • Kurt Schnier



Between 1945 and 2007, the United States lost 19.3 % of its agricultural land. Over the same time period, the construction of the 42,500 mile interstate highway system lowered transportation costs and opened large tracts of land for development. This paper assesses the impact of the interstate highway system on agricultural land loss in Georgia and uses the empirical estimates to simulate agricultural land loss resulting from the construction of additional interstate highways. Using a historical data set of agricultural land and interstate highway mileage, empirical estimates indicate that each additional mile of interstate highway reduces agricultural land by 468 acres. The impact of interstate highways is heterogeneous across initial level of county development. Urban counties convert 70 % more land than the full sample estimates. Simulation results show that additions to the interstate system create further loss of agricultural land. The results imply that future conservation programs need to consider how to mitigate the impact of the interstate highway system. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Chris Mothorpe & Andrew Hanson & Kurt Schnier, 2013. "The impact of interstate highways on land use conversion," The Annals of Regional Science, Springer;Western Regional Science Association, vol. 51(3), pages 833-870, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:anresc:v:51:y:2013:i:3:p:833-870
    DOI: 10.1007/s00168-013-0564-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guy Michaels, 2008. "The Effect of Trade on the Demand for Skill: Evidence from the Interstate Highway System," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 683-701, November.
    2. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2011. "The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: Evidence from US Cities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2616-2652, October.
    3. Gilles Duranton & Matthew A. Turner, 2012. "Urban Growth and Transportation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(4), pages 1407-1440.
    4. Thomas J. Nechyba & Randall P. Walsh, 2004. "Urban Sprawl," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(4), pages 177-200, Fall.
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    Cited by:

    1. R. L. Baumhardt & B. A. Stewart & U. M. Sainju, 2015. "North American Soil Degradation: Processes, Practices, and Mitigating Strategies," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(3), pages 1-25, March.
    2. repec:taf:transr:v:36:y:2016:i:6:p:772-792 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    R14; R11; R52; Q56;

    JEL classification:

    • R14 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Land Use Patterns
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes
    • R52 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Land Use and Other Regulations
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth


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