Document Type

Capstone Project

Publication Date



Brookings Mountain West

Publisher Location

Las Vegas, Nevada

First page number:


Last page number:



In a January 2016 meeting, the Clark County Commission heard a proposal from the County Public Works Department about a $200 million plan to build two urban elevated expressways constructed above existing roadways, potentially linking McCarran International Airport with the Las Vegas Strip’s resort corridor. Commissioners lauded the project with a “high degree of confidence” for funding sources and praised the “magnificent way of moving traffic” and “out of the box thinking” of these urban elevated expressways. Yet the positive feedback that County Commissioners showered on this proposal flies in the face of decades of history on urban elevated expressways. Cities and states have spent over $20 billion and nearly five decades locked in contentious battles to tear down these expressways. Such teardowns have reduced the social inequity associated with new freeway construction, and have shifted the discussion in urban planning from mere mobility of cars from point A to point B to increased multimodal access for pedestrians, bikes, cars, and light-rail transit. In light of this emerging public policy discussion, this white paper has been prepared for Brookings Mountain West as a primer on the state of urban elevated expressways in North America. For this white paper, a survey was conducted of the top 50 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the United States and only found one example of an urban elevated expressway project in Tampa—a project far different from the Southern Nevada expressway on many fronts. In fact, cities have been at the forefront of urban elevated expressway removal, through what has been unofficially referred to as the “freeway revolt” movement. Engagement with urban planning experts in person and on social media revealed a similar consensus on the historic trend against urban elevated expressways. This paper attempts to supplement local discussion on this topic with research on other cities’ experiences with these roads.


City planning; Express highways; Nevada--Las Vegas Metropolitan Area; Urban transportation


Public Policy | Transportation | Urban Studies

File Format


File Size

400 KB




This is a student research paper, patterned on a Brookings Policy Brief, written under the supervision of a Brookings Scholar.


IN COPYRIGHT. For more information about this rights statement, please visit