Degradation in urban air quality from construction activity and increased traffic arising from a road widening scheme

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Road widening schemes in urban areas are often proposed as a solution to traffic congestion and as a means of stimulating economic growth. There is however clear evidence that new or expanded roads rapidly fill with either displaced or induced traffic, offsetting any short-term gains in eased traffic flows. What has not been addressed in any great detail is the impact of such schemes on air quality, with modelled impact predictions seldom validated by measurements after the expansion of road capacity. In this study we made use of a road widening project in London to investigate the impact on ambient air quality (particulate matter, NOX, NO2) during and after the completion of the road works.

PM10 increased during the construction period up to 15 μg m− 3 during working hours compared to concentrations before the road works. A box modelling approach was used to determine a median emission factor of 0.0022 kg PM10 m− 2 month− 1, three times larger than that used in the UK emission inventory (0.0007 kg PM10 m− 2 month− 1). Peaks of activity released 0.0130 kg PM10 m− 2 month− 1, three and eight times smaller than the peak values used in the European and US inventories. After the completion of the widening there was an increase in all pollutants from the road during rush hour: 2–4 μg m− 3 for PM10; 1 μg m− 3 for PM2.5; 40 and 8 μg m− 3 for NOX and NO2, respectively. NO2 EU Limit Value was breached after the road development illustrating a notable deterioration in residential air quality. Additionally, PM10, but not PM2.5, glutathione dependent oxidative potential increased after the road was widened consistent with an increase in pro-oxidant components in the coarse particle mode, related to vehicle abrasion processes. These increased air pollution indices were associated with an increase in the number of cars, taxis and LGVs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-132
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date14 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014


  • Induced traffic
  • Road widening schemes
  • Air quality impacts
  • Source apportionment
  • Construction PM10 emission factor
  • Oxidative potential


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