What if all roads went underground?

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One of the most immediate effects of a world without surface roads would be a massive depletion of space around the world.

In rural areas, this could mean more land for farming or help encourage animal release and capture carbon from the air. It would also alleviate one of the big problems with roads: they tend to fragment the landscape.

For animals, roads can represent a barrier separating species from each other or from their prey. According to a recent publication, the global expansion of the road network is threatening all efforts to protect apex predators, including reducing their genetic connectivity and increasing poaching, with sloth bears and tigers being the most vulnerable. Increased fragmentation also causes more carbon emissions as it increases the number of forest edges where tree mortality is higher.

Roads can also impede water flow, says Alisa Coffin, a research ecologist at the US Department of Agriculture. She points to the Tamiyami Trail, a road connecting Tampa and Miami that has had a devastating impact on the Everglades, blocking water flow, increasing wildfires, and affecting plants and animals. Is. “It’s an example of a road being built without really understanding what the impact would be,” says Coffin.

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Collisions between animals and cars are another big problem. Sarah Perkins, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University, is coordinating Project Splitter, a decades-old citizen science research project that monitors wildlife killed on Britain’s roads. She says she receives reports of about 10,000 dead animals each year, but Perkins believes that’s only a fraction of the true total. Some studies estimate millions of roadkills a year in Europe alone.

Keeping roads underground “could reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles,” Perkins says, provided animals don’t use tunnels. It would also eliminate the light and noise pollution that affects the behavior of animals on the road. Can, she adds.

Despite this huge environmental impact of removing roads, it will be in cities, which are projected to account for 70% of the world’s population by 2050, where the new open space will have the greatest impact on people.

“Can you imagine how cities would change?” asks Tom Ireland, Tunneling Project Manager at Orecon Engineering. “Those who want to revitalize the city center can walk through the streets.” This will make room for trees, linear parks, landscaping, sidewalk cafes and other public amenities.

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