Highway Beauty: Major Roadways All over the State of Illinois Are Getting a Much-Needed Facelift

By Wolfson, Sara | American Forests, Autumn 2008 | Go to article overview

Highway Beauty: Major Roadways All over the State of Illinois Are Getting a Much-Needed Facelift


Wolfson, Sara, American Forests


We don't often consider how much time we spend staring down the highways, perhaps because we don't wish to remember it. Highways are functional but ugly, miles of blank asphalt threading the landscape. But what can be done? These days, most of us spend a fair portion of our lives commuting to and from work, visiting friends and relatives who live ever more distant, or meeting the basic needs of a suburban lifestyle. The average American spends over an hour in the car each day. The stark ugliness of highways is an unfortunate cost of modern mobility.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

But just as cities and trees aren't mutually exclusive--just ask your local urban forester--neither are trees and highways. Maybe you've never noticed the strips of trees lining certain portions of highway, or dismissed them with a disdainful "that isn't real nature." And it's true, of course, that driving among those trees is not like being enveloped in the stillness of a forest, where one of the attractions is the distance from such things as trucks, cars, and highways. But highway-side trees should not be dismissed so easily. They are a reminder that, beyond the concrete and asphalt, the lush green of the natural world still exists, something that can be forgotten in lives full of synthetic goods and buildings. Further, studies suggest that the presence of trees along highways can mitigate some of the lesser-known health impacts of busy roads.

The United States has the largest network of highways in the world. The Interstate Highway System covers nearly 48,000 miles, which is about twice the length of the earth's circumference. It's fairly common knowledge that highways enable more car emissions and particulates to pollute the air, but fewer people know that living near highways and other busy roads can be harmful to human health because of the high levels of noise. Automobiles are one of the greatest and loudest sources of noise, and over 17 million people are daily exposed to noise levels of traffic that exceed 70 and even 80 decibels. Exposure to high and constant levels of noise causes hearing loss, accelerated heartbeat, high blood pressure, gastro-intestinal problems, sleep problems, and heart disease. Psychological effects such as anxiety and depression only compound other health problems caused by noise pollution.

No one noticed the effects of noise until the early 1970s, decades after serious highway work had already begun. Past planners routinely built communities--houses, hospitals, schools, libraries--around roads, and both the number of cars and the noise have increased in ways the original planners could never have predicted. Beginning in 2004, major cities began passing stronger noise codes, citing noise as a quality-of-life issue, but these ordinances can only control certain human-produced aspects of noise pollution like street performers or outdoor speakers.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Though many highways were built without buffers, trees are an excellent way to screen communities from the noise and pollution of nearby highways. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that a large enough area of trees can cut traffic noise levels in half. In the area of Chicago, AMERICAN FORESTS has partnered with local organization Trees Across the Miles in an unconventional Global ReLeaf project to plant trees along the highways of Illinois. For three years, our two groups have planted thousands of saplings along portions of Route 53 and I-290, Stevenson Expressway I-55 and Kennedy Expressway I-90, and the Elgin/O'Hare Expressway. The US Department of Transportation reported that in 2006, some 9.9 million vehicles--privately, commercially, and publicly owned--were registered in the state of Illinois. Thousands of motorists come by these functional forests, or green belts, each day.

Because Global ReLeaf has been at work in the area for some years now, the project locations are diverse, varying from older projects in Chicago itself to Schaumburg, a town about 40 minutes outside the city. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Highway Beauty: Major Roadways All over the State of Illinois Are Getting a Much-Needed Facelift
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.