Examining the Externalities of Highway Capacity Expansions in California: An Analysis of Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) and Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect Using Remote Sensing Technology

The goal of this project is twofold:

  •  to help government agencies in California identify, quantify, and mitigate the non-VMT externalities associated with highway capacity expansions impacting their communities; and
  •  to provide justification and new tools for a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis that incorporates non-VMT externalities into future roadway capacity expansion and maintenance decisions.

This research uses an analysis of the literature and current practice to identify and examine the externalities associated with highway capacity expansion projects, and a a quasi-experimental research design to examine the association between new highway investments in California and changes in land use and cover (LULC) and urban heat island (UHI) effect over time and after major highway investment projects while controlling for no-build counterfactuals.

San José State University
Principal Investigator: 
Serena E. Alexander
PI Contact Information: 


San Jose State University

September 2022
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

This research offers many benefits to Californians, including:

  • Offering a comprehensive view of the environmental externalities of highway capacity expansion projects;
  • Testing and refining the use of remote sensing technology to examine and visualize LULC and UHI impacts of highway capacity expansion;
  • Providing crucial evidence for the LULC and UHI impacts of highway expansion;
  • Showcasing opportunities for effective mitigation of urban UHI effect and examining LULC change using advanced visualization techniques.
Project Number: 



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SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: mineta-institute@sjsu.edu