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Development of the highway network, traffic flow and the growth of settlements in interior B.C. Wills, Michael Jeffrey

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to relate highway investment and economic growth in a regional context and to investigate the nature of this relationship. Temporal aspects are emphasised in so far as attention is focussed on the way in which economic activity leads or lags highway accessibility. A significant part of the economic development literature has been concerned with these lead-lag relationships. For this reason it is remarkable that so few studies have made a serious attempt to find out the nature of these relationships in a given region. Three aspects of the space-economy are singled out for analysis. These are the lead-lag relations between accessibility and economic activity, between traffic flow and link importance, and between economic growth in urban centres and distance to nearest larger centre. Concepts derived from the theory of graphs are used to simplify and operationally define the space-economy, and attention is paid to criteria for the inclusion of centres and highways in the abstract system. Regression analysis is used for classification purposes so that temporal trends in the residuals can be observed. Canonical correlation analysis is employed to reveal an underlying system of leads and lags in the data. Results show the existence of lagged relationships and the increasing spatial integration of the economy. Levels of activity are shown to have led highway improvement by some five years, which suggests that highway investment has not played the role of leading sector that it is sometimes held to perform. It is, therefore, conjectured that the primary, export-based activities are the leading sector and that these are identifiable with the leading regions of northern B.C. Results also show that highway improvement has led the levels of traffic flow. This feedback suggests that the highway investment programme has accelerated the growth of these regions and hence has fostered the regionally unbalanced growth patterns inherent in the B.C. economy. In addition to this the analysis implies that traffic flow has become more interregional in character. During the same period the settlement hierarchy has become regularly spaced. These trends are thought to be related to the development of a superstructure of tertiary activities directly upon the resource base as these are the economic functions most sensitive to highway improvements.

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