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6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Social Studies, Economics

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West, Oregon, Willamette Valley / Portland Metro


YouTube Video

What Happens to Traffic When You Tear Down a Freeway?

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  • This video discusses the impacts of highways in urban areas, particularly when they are removed.
  • Students will learn how the interstate system that was built in the 1950s led to the construction of freeways in cities across America, but that removing freeways in Portland and San Francisco has had a positive impact on reducing traffic.
Teaching Tips


  • This video challenges students to think critically about transportation in urban areas.
  • Many helpful links can be found in the video description area.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students will need to understand what a freeway is and how it is different from other roadways.
  • The video briefly notes that freeways hurt the environment, destroy urban neighborhoods, and increase segregation without offering an explanation. Students will benefit from understanding why freeways have negative impacts on communities.


  • History and social studies classes could watch "How Highways Wrecked American Cities" (linked in the video description) to learn about the racial motivations behind the location of urban freeways, then follow it with this article that details how removing freeways can lead to gentrification.
  • Social studies, science, and design classes could use this video to start a discussion about the role that urban planning plays in promoting livability in communities. Have students make a list of forms of transportation and then think about how urban planning can facilitate modes of transportation that are better for the environment.
  • Social studies and economics classes could discuss the concept of induced demand mentioned in the video and think about other situations that this concept might apply to. 
  • Other resources on this topic include this video that shows the value of getting around without a car, this video on bicycle-only roads in the Netherlands, and this Grist video on walkable cities.
Scientist Notes
This 6-minute video examines the ways in which highways and freeways have impacted U.S. cities and communities. In particular, it looks at traffic patterns, inequality issues, and ways in which roads can be removed and replaced with alternative forms of transportation. This is a short, clear resource with sources provided in the video description. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • MS-ETS1-2 Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.4.6-8 Explain how cultural patterns and economic decisions influence environments and the daily lives of people in both nearby and distant places.
      • D2.Geo.5.9-12 Evaluate how political and economic decisions throughout time have influenced cultural and environmental characteristics of various places and regions.
    • Dimension 2: History
      • D2.His.5.6-8 Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.
      • D2.His.14.6-8 Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
  • Related Resources


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