Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Urban and Public Affairs

Committee Chair

Savitch, Harold V.

Committee Member

Imbroscio, David L.

Committee Member

Simpson, David M.

Committee Member

Gainous, Jason


Express highways--Economic aspects; Urban renewal--Economic aspects; Urban transportation--Economic aspects


This study evaluates the effect of urban freeway deconstruction on the local economy. Scholars for years debated the role of urban freeway on the local economy. Those who found a positive effect of urban freeway use national data to support their finding. However, other scholars found the effect of urban freeway on the local economy mixed. Four major questions are raised in this study: What are the key factors of the city that affect the decision to remove urban freeways? What are the similarities and differences between cities that choose to remove their urban freeways? Does freeway deconstruction bring about the intended results, as measured through property values? If not, what are the causes? What type of institutional arrangement and political support ensures the initiative for freeway deconstruction can be implemented? Twenty-three cases of urban freeway deconstruction in twenty-one U.S. cities are used as the unit of analysis. I develop seven causal conditions from two distinct characteristics of the city: a post-industrial city and a declining, transitional industrial city. Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) is utilized to identify possible combinations of causal conditions that lead to the decision to remove urban freeways. I use case studies of urban freeway deconstruction in San Francisco and Milwaukee to illuminate the economic effect of the project on the local economy and identify actors, motives, and rationales behind the decision to remove urban freeway. A hedonic price model is used to test the economic impact of urban freeway deconstruction on the local economy. A descriptive comparative analysis is employed to reveal actors, their role in the decision-making process, and coalition building that affect the decision to remove urban freeways. I found out that urban freeway deconstruction did not always bring a positive economic impact on the local economy, measured by the increased property value. Only a post-industrial city experienced this positive economic impact while a declining, transitional industrial city did not. Further, the local growth coalition in a post-industrial city is characterized by broad support from various actors, while in a declining, transitional industrial city, it was the local political elites who drives the process. This in turn significantly affects the economic outcome of the process. In conclusion, I present recommendation for future research, and implications for place-making strategies and framework for reinvigorating cities.