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E-ZPass reduced the rate of premature births to mothers who live near toll booths by 9.1%

No more congestion at toll plazas led decreased pollution

A study by Janet Currie and Reed Walker published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics has shown a strong correlation between reduced pollution and the rate of premature deaths.

The paper provides evidence of the significant negative health externalities of traffic congestion. The introduction of electronic toll collection, or E-ZPass, in New York greatly reduced traffic congestion and emissions from motor vehicles in the vicinity of highway toll plazas.
The authors compare infants born to mothers living near toll plazas to infants born to mothers living near busy roadways but away from toll plazas, with the idea that mothers living away from toll plazas did not experience significant reductions in local traffic congestion.

Reduction in traffic congestion generated by E-ZPass led to the following:

  • Reduced premature births by 9.1%
  • Low birth weight was reduced by 11.3%

There were no immediate changes in the characteristics of mothers or in housing prices in the vicinity of toll plazas that could explain these changes, and the results are robust to many changes in specification.

The results suggest that traffic congestion is a significant contributor to poor health in affected infants. Estimates of the costs of traffic congestion should account for these important health externalities.

See the paper here or download the PDF →

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