More affordable housing can sometimes be found along high traffic routes such as freeways, expressways, and other higher speed streets. What are the health, safety, and other risks near busy roads?

Risks near busy roads graphic - city street with cars and a bus driving fast.

Resale Risks

A house on a high-traffic street may sell well when the inventory is low, but in a buyer’s market with lots of competition, real estate listings with location issues may be very difficult to sell.

How busy is too busy? It’s not black and white, it’s increasing shades of gray. Best for resale (and many other causes for concern) is a quiet residential street, of course. At the other end of the spectrum is being directly on a fast moving, heavily used highway. If you make use of Google’s street view, you can see the speed limit if posted, or if there’s a double yellow line down the middle, or if it’s 2 lanes in each direction.

Practical Considerations and Safety

Obviously, being directly on a boulevard can mean that practically, it’s hard to back your car out of the driveway in the morning. Traffic headaches can mean leaving or getting back home may be delayed during certain times of the day.

Faster driving may mean increased odds of dangerous and distracted driving and accidents. One of my clients bought a home on a somewhat busy road and had a car plow into their 2 cars parked in the driveway. Had the vehicle been a few feet over, it might have entered their child’s bedroom. Scary thought.

Recently I saw a house at the corner of Blossom Hill Road and a residential street put giant concrete planters between the street and the sidewalk. They are nice looking and effectively work as bollards to protect the home from wayward cars. Seemed brilliant to me!

Other Health Risks Near Busy Roads

Next I’ll share some links so that you can do your own research on the risks near busy roads. It appears that being near freeways, expressways, busy thoroughfares and the like increases health risks for children and adults. There have been a number of studies linking close proximity to busy roads with all kinds of health related woes, including dementia, cardiovascular problems, lung issues, and so on. The studies are not complete, but all indications seem to point to a correlation. Is it the fumes? Small bits of tire that we breath? Could noise be at play?

Living near major roads linked to risk of dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and MS  University of British Columbia-  ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2020.   

Living near busy road stunts children’s lung growth, study says – article in The Guardian (British publication), with links to the academic studies
Kids living near major roads at higher risk of developmental delays – (American study) April 9, 2019
Living Near Highways and Air Pollution – by the American Lung Association  

Freeway pollution travels farther than we thought. Here’s how to protect yourself – Los Angeles Times Dec 30, 2017
AIR QUALITY AND LAND USE HANDBOOK:A COMMUNITY HEALTH PERSPECTIVE (PDF) 2005 – California Environmental Protection Agency California Air Resources Board – referenced in the above article

Research on Near Roadway and Other Near Source Air Pollution – EPA (likely the same information as the above PDF but likely with more current content, undated) – contains links to resources for further reading of journal articles and reports.

Mitigating Risks

If you are already living in an area with a busy road nearby, you might want to consider a few things to mitigate the situation.

On the issue of backing out of your driveway, you may want to look into expanding your parking area or making other changes so that you can leave nose out and with better visibility to oncoming cars.

To protect your house from wayward vehicles, you might benefit from large planters in the parking strip, or putting in a wrought iron fence with bollard like posts, which will slow down a car that intrudes.

For air quality, buy an air quality monitor so that you have more information on your indoor air pollution. If you have a forced air furnace, change the filters often (possibly every 3 months instead of every six) and run the fan on the furnace (you don’t need the heat or AC running if your thermostat has the fan setting – if not, you’ll want to add it).

Got a wall furnace or electric baseboard? Investigate portable hepa devices which can clean the air in the room. Use the air quality sensor to see if it’s doing the trick. You’ll probably need one for each room (cost around $250 each as of this writing).

Finally, should any of the health effects be noise related, it would be wise to have extra insulation where possible and to have double pane windows to minimize the impact from the noise.