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Could Underground Roads Solve Traffic?

By: Ella Wang

Since the mid-1800s, traffic has been an alarming problem in society. It increases the consumption of fuel, carbon emissions as well as air and noise pollution. Because of the rise in these harmful substances and the damage it does to Earth’s environment, a serious question arises: “what will we do to stop it?”

According to BBC News, the world has nearly 40 million miles of road (64 million km), and it will only increase even more. As more and more countries develop, growth in population and income will increase, but the degradation of resources and open land will rise as well. By 2040, there will be approximately 2 billion cars on the road, and traffic levels could increase by 50%.

Many people are annoyed with the terrible problem of traffic, including Elon Musk, founder of Tesla. At an event for his tunneling firm in 2018, Elon Musk announced a futuristic solution to the traffic problem: underground roadways. This solves many of the problems said above, and also opens up new and better opportunities for people around the world.

Underground roads would also prevent further land reduction in our already crowded spaces. Every day, many animal habitats are stolen away due to the building of infrastructure or other human activities. By eliminating one of the leading factors of habitat loss, roadkill rates will decrease and biodiversity, which is essential to our survival, will increase. Our environment will profit as more land is available to wildlife.

"Can you imagine how the cities will be transformed?" Tom Ireland, projects director of tunneling company Aurecon, asks in an article from BBC. "If you want to revitalize the city center, you pedestrianize the roads." Underground roads would ultimately free up room for trees, linear parks, landscaping, pavement cafes, and scores of other public amenities.

Another problem underground roadways would solve is climate change. According to BBC News, green space absorbs more water than concrete. Therefore if more parks and green grassland appear, people will be more protected from flooding and other natural disasters. Additional trees also reduce temperatures by nearly 40% during the day.

Furthermore, driving underground can avoid extreme weather such as hazardous heat, cold or rain.

"You can climate-control everything, you can engineer your existence very efficiently underground," Bradley Garrett, a cultural geographer at University College Dublin and author of Subterranean London, says in an article from BBC News. "And that does mean generally that the infrastructure we build underground lasts longer."

By removing some roads above the surface, people can also reconnect with their communities again. “Dislocated communities are one of the biggest problems caused by large roads,” Ireland says in an article from BBC News. According to BBC News, divided neighborhoods can prevent people from essential services such as grocery stores and restrict mobility, increasing income inequality and segregation.

In 2021, a report in Seattle found that the removal of surface roads can reunite neighborhoods and provide space for up to 4.7 million square feet (0.44 million square meters) of new housing.

Underground roads may as well be the solution to traffic. Perhaps one day, our world would be able to flourish once more in a healthy environment where we have clean air, diverse species, and more communication.

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