Congestion May not be the Biggest Problem in Road Development

Road development is important in ensuring transportation is fast and efficient inside and outside of country borders. In most of the developing world, it would seem speed takes precedence over safety. An article in the Economist, highlights that deaths from road traffic accidents surpassed deaths from Malaria and Tuberculosis in most recent years. This is not the case in the rich countries. In particular Sweden has cut road deaths in half since 2000 and by four fifths since 1970. Banks and donors will fund large road projects, but there is little emphasis on the safety of these roads.The European Union funded $91 million to the A104, a highway that goes through Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. All of the funds went to the road and none went to safety measures such as center dividers or fences, crosswalks, rumble strips on shoulders, or bike lanes. There are simple measure that can be taken to ensure fewer casualties. The road is not very efficient if it causes more problems than it solves. The negative externality in this case is the accidents on the road. Deaths and injuries cost 5% of GDP every year in middle and low-income countries. These costs could be easily avoided. Compared with 1-2% in rich countries, it would appear that in poorer countries the benefits of a road may not overshadow the costs of having it. The International Road Assessment Program estimates that only 1-3% of funds would be “enough” to make roads remarkably safer. Many of the safety measures are only a fraction of the total cost of a road, but the impact on safety would do more than enough to make up for the extra expenditure. Those that are funding these projects such as the A104 in poorer countries must ensure that the road will uphold certain safety standards. The death toll is forecast to take as many lives as HIV/AIDS by 2030. This appears to be a gruesome cost with a simple fix, so why do we not see it happen?

About Jared Soares

Hello, my name is Jared Soares. I am pursuing a degree in economics with minors in mathematics and computer science. Outside of school I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, cooking and performing with the improv comedy troupe Ubiquitous They.

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