The Value of Roads


What gives value to roads?

Roads connect people to things of value,
A busy road connecting things of valueOne busy road connects homes to workplaces and recreation sites, and delivers services and building materials.

Click or tap image to enlargeor sometimes connect things of value to one another. For example, roads allow us to visit friends and family; they connect our homes to our places of work, shopping, and recreation; they connect oilfields to refineries, mines to processing plants, materials plants to factories, factories to warehouses, warehouses to retail markets, and farms to grocery stores.

If you are inclined to look for exceptions, you might ask about a pipeline patrol road…and this connects the pipeline maintenance operators to the physical length of the pipeline. You might ask about a scenic road through a national park…and this road connects visitors to unique scenery or opportunity to see wildlife.

Roads have value because they provide connections to things that someone values or many people value.

An example: metals and roads

Flows of metal from source through selected uses, to disposalFlows of metal from source through selected uses, to disposal.

Click or tap image to enlarge

An example is illustrated here: metal starts in a mine as raw ore and is transported by road (sometimes, for the first few hops, by ship or railroad) along the pathways shown as black lines. Typi­cally, the trans­por­ta­tion distances get physically longer after final product manufacturing, as products are moved through the distribution chain to consumers.

Keep in mind that only three uses of metals are illustrated, and there are many more uses of metals. Transportation pathways connect to every structure and, therefore, utilize virtually every road.

Furthermore there are many other materials than metals for which we might draw similar diagrams. The largest human construction?
It is quite likely that the road network of North America is the largest construction ever made by humans, whether measured by length, amount of material used in construction, cost, or value of use. The lack of a unified plan of construction is one of the factors that causes network growth to threaten space.
A few lines in this diagram represent multiple uses of an estimated 4,071,000 miles of roads in the United States, 870,000 miles of roads in Canada, and 227,481 miles of roads in Mexico; the total North American road network is roughly 5.2 million miles (8.3 million km) in length.

When contemplating the length of roads and their multiple uses, it is easy to see how valuable they are and why open space faces tough competition.

Read more…

What is Space?

Space requires both area and distance.

Space is a Nonrenewable Resource

Space loss is essentially irrevers­ible, so space inexorably shrinks.

Roads Versus Space

New roads, and other things built near roads, always reduce space. Who wins and who loses?

Protection from Roads = Protection of Space

…because roads are the first step in space reduction.

The Tilted Incentive System

Road building pays well; space preservation does not.

Back to: Open Space—Our Vanishing Resource

Overview of the forces behind space loss.