The Impact of Widening Highways on Urban Neighborhoods

NJ Urbanthinker

By Julio Mora

Beginning in the 1900s , the United States has seen both positive and negative impacts from the increase in the number of privately owned automobiles. The negative being the rapid growth of suburban communities along with the increasing levels of traffic congestion and air pollution. The positive aspect being the conveniency of the auto mobiles to allow people to get from their homes, to their jobs, and to a variety of other places in only a matter of minutes. With the increasing number of automobiles and traffic congestion, new roads needed to be built and old roads needed to be extended in order to accommodate the vehicles. However, this action reshapes the land use and often invokes much emotional and political controversy. Although the building of highways and other road extensions seems like a solution, it is only a temporary one. There are several examples of the consequences noticeable throughout the United States, one of the best examples being in the city of New Brunswick, New Jersey.

To begin with, the city of New Brunswick has two major highways running through the city which are route 1 and route 18. This highway accommodates thousands of automobiles, public transportation, school buses, and other vehicles, in entering the city of New Brunswick. As of late, both can be classified as having massive traffic congestion especially during rush hours. In fact, the traffic congestion worsened to the point that New Jersey’s Department of Transportation passed two reconstruction projects for the area. The first project was undergone by Conti Enterprises who after receiving the contract in March of 2005 estimated the project to take about 4 years and cost about 200 million dollars.


However, the planning for this project took place over a decade before. The main purpose for this project was safety and mobility for pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists by improving upon traffic operations, changing certain roadway features, and allowing for easier access to and from New Brunswick. The features that were incorporated within the plan were: new outer roadways with walking paths along the south and north bound that lead to 4 new bridges along George Street, Commercial Ave, New Street, and Albany Street that would enter into the city of New Brunswick.

New traffic lights were incorporated in order to improve safety along Paulus Boulevard, George Street, and Commercial Ave. The Pedestrian bridges of New Street, Carpenter Road, and Richmond Street were improved upon. Then from the new bridge at Commercial Ave, a ramped promenade was connected that would lead to an entranceway into Boyd Park, which gained a new amphitheater along with an extension to the former city docks with additional parking spaces. In addition, new sidewalks, lighting, and a noise wall were made to accommodate the residential areas. Finally, much of the utilities within the area were buried underground, and the new Albany tunnel and Richmond Street bridge were built with sensitivity to the area.

In a few years, beginning in July of 2014, the Department of Transportation once again embarked on the mission to attempt to alleviate traffic congestion. The construction of this project ended the Fall of 2016 which included the widening of the Route 18 northbound structure by one lane to include a deceleration/ acceleration ramp. The project also included reconstruction of the ramp that leads route 18 northbound into route 1 southbound, new lighting and sign structures, new drainage facilities, guide rail, and intelligent transportation systems. Finally, there was an installation of four retaining walls.

Despite the efforts to accommodate pedestrians, in my opnion the widening of Route 18 has done little to improve the traffic congestion and walkability, not to mention that Boyd Park and the Raritan River continue to remain isolated from the rest of New Brunswick. The extension of highways and the creation of new roads often reshapes the land use of the area. From these two projects, the city of New Brunswick needs to find a new way to alleviate traffic because the extension of Route 18 has not acheived the goals it set out to accomplish.


Unit, NJDOT Web Development. ” .” Route 18 Bridge over Route 1, Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information. Department of Transportation, 31 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.

Unit, NJDOT Web Development. “Route 18 Reconstruction Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information.” Route 18 Reconstruction Overview, Construction Updates, Commuter Information. Department of Transportation, 26 Jan. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.