Assessing the economic effects of context sensitive main street highways in small cities

Principal Investigator(s):

Camila Fonseca Sarmiento, Director of Fiscal Research, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


  • Zhirong Zhao, Former U of M Faculty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project summary:

Complete Streets is a transportation policy and design approach that requires streets to be planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient, and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation. While there have been multiple studies on Complete Streets in metropolitan areas, little is known about these projects' impacts in small cities. In this project, researchers assessed the economic impacts of Complete Streets projects on small-city businesses through case studies and by comparing economic measures from a group of cities with Complete Streets projects to comparable control groups without these streets. The research team's findings show that few respondents perceive a direct impact for their business, but many feel that the reconstructions have been (would be) beneficial for the city. Mechanisms through which Complete Streets might impact businesses and the local economy include altering of business practices, changing of city practices, or acting as a catalyst for additional investment. In addition, the research team's results suggest that Complete Streets projects may improve the economic activity of small cities to some extent, particularly when considering revenues from property taxes. The research team also developed a consistent set of economic metrics that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and local transportation agencies can use to evaluate and communicate the effect of context-sensitive main street highways.

Project details: