A population-based cohort study of electronic tolling, traffic congestion, and adverse birth outcomes

2024  Journal Article

A population-based cohort study of electronic tolling, traffic congestion, and adverse birth outcomes

Pub TLDR

This research study's findings contribute to the ongoing discussion about the effectiveness of traffic congestion reduction projects and their potential co-benefits for public health.

Despite the theoretical benefits of reducing traffic congestion on air quality and, by extension, public health, this study suggests that the implementation of electronic tolling systems in Texas did not lead to measurable improvements in infant health outcomes over the study period.

 

College of Health researcher(s)

OSU Profile

Highlights

  • Electronic tolling implementation leads to minimal changes in local traffic.
  • Adverse birth outcomes have little evidence of association with electronic tolling implementation.
  • Births within 500 m of a tolled road show some evidence of a reduced association between toll booth removal and preterm birth.

Abstract

Background

Although traffic-related air pollution is largely regulated at the federal level, congestion reduction projects may reduce local traffic and air pollution to levels that create positive co-benefits for population health. In recent years, many urban areas have implemented electronic tolling systems to improve traffic conditions.

Objective

Quantify associations between implementing electronic tolling and local changes in traffic and infant health.

Methods

Using a population-based birth cohort (Texas, 1999-2016), we calculated residential proximity to the nearest tolled road segment within 5 km (n = 625,279) and examined changes in local traffic before and after toll implementation. Using a difference-in-differences design, we compared four markers of adverse birth outcomes (term birth weight, term low birth weight, preterm birth, very preterm birth) among infants from pregnant people residing < 0.5 km from a road segment before and after the tolls were implemented and compared them to a contemporaneous population of pregnant people residing at 2-5 km.

Results

We observed minimal changes in local traffic after the implementation of tolling. Among births within 500 m of a tolled road, we found little evidence of an association between the implementation of tolling and adverse birth outcomes (term birth weight [β: -4.5, 95 % CI: -11.7, 2.6], term low birth weight [OR: 1.00, 95 % CI: 0.89, 1.13], preterm birth [OR: 0.99, 95 % CI: 0.92, 1.05], very preterm birth [OR: 1.00, 95 % CI: 0.84, 1.18]), compared to the contemporaneous control group of births at 2-5 km. In sub-analyses, we found some evidence of a reduced association between toll booth removal and preterm birth (OR: 0.84, 95 % CI: 0.70, 1.01) but not for other outcomes or tolling types.

Discussion

In this large population-based retrospective cohort study of births in Texas, we found little evidence that the implementation of tolling was consistently associated with improvements in local infant health outcomes.

Willis, Mary D, Harris, Lena, Campbell, Erin J, Chaskes, Mira, Sawyer, Ethan, Harleman, Max, Ritz, Beate, Hill, Elaine L, Hystad, Perry(2024)A population-based cohort study of electronic tolling, traffic congestion, and adverse birth outcomesEnvironment International183