Stopping destructive highways

The damage done 

Across the South, there continues to be a push to pave our states with large, destructive new and expanded highways.  This outdated transportation approach fuels poorly-planned, sprawling growth leading to longer commutes, more driving and, in turn, climate changing emissions and air pollution.  In addition, highway construction and the development it spurs often destroy carbon sinks, such as wetlands, that otherwise store carbon and absorb water—making the climate crisis and flooding even worse. And these projects often damage or destroy irreplaceable natural resources and wildlife habitat.

In addition, there is a long history of highways slicing through communities of color and low-wealth communities, destroying neighborhoods and businesses and isolating people from necessary services and job opportunities. Also, vehicle pollution harms the health of these residents—contributing to asthma, respiratory illness, cancer, and premature death.  

Here’s what we can do

The South is growing, and people need to move within and between communities and have access to jobs and services.  But that doesn’t mean we need to continue pursuing the failed policies of the past: highways that fill up with more traffic almost as quickly as we build them.  Instead, SELC advocates for forward-thinking policies that will foster healthy, vibrant communities while reducing climate-changing emissions and protecting carbon sinks and natural areas.  We work to convince state, regional, and local officials throughout the region to focus on maintaining and improving existing roadways, enhancing alternatives to driving that can reduce pollution and increase people’s choices (such as rail, transit, bicycling and walking), and promoting smarter growth while protecting natural resources. 

No one likes to spend their days stuck behind a wheel.  We should be investing in transportation projects that reduce congestion while promoting healthy, equitable and resilient communities.  That means abandoning the old
highway-centric mindset and pursuing more innovative solutions.

Kym Hunter, SELC Senior Attorney