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Release: Immediate

UI Public Policy Center awarded grants to study impact of highway projects

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Public Policy Center has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to study the social and economic impact of major highway projects.

David Forkenbrock, director of the center, said, "When billions of local, state, and federal dollars are invested annually in highways, much more needs to be known about the effects one can reasonably expect these investments to bring about." The study will develop a series of quantitative measures to gauge the probable impact highway projects will have on economic development, as well as on the quality of life for nearby residents and the larger region.

Another new study under Forkenbrock's guidance is funded by a $150,000 grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation. The study will analyze the ways in which highway investments alter residential and commercial land use in and around cities of different sizes. Researchers will develop methods to estimate how land use will be impacted by community bypasses, new or widened arterial roads, additional freeway interchanges, and other changes to urban highway systems.

A special committee has been formed to work with the study team. Land developers and local officials from across Iowa are included in the committee.

Forkenbrock said products of two studies will be useful to city council members, urban planners, business leaders and other decision-makers who must assess plans for future highway construction. "While the National Research Council grant takes a national perspective, the research from both studies will be helpful in evaluating the likely impacts of highway projects in growing suburban areas like West Des Moines," he explained.

The UI Public Policy Center brings together faculty, staff and students from numerous disciplines to promote positive social change within Iowa and region. The center works with public and private organizations to discover solutions to problems related to public interest.