Do Infrastructure Improvements for Regional Integration Increase Traffic Volume? The Case of the Inter-Oceanic Highway in the Southwestern Amazon

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

In Latin America and elsewhere, large-scale infrastructure projects are routinely justified in terms of economic development and criticized for the ecological and social consequences. Debates over the wisdom of infrastructure thus focus on indirect impacts, and often overlook direct impacts such as traffic volumes. We take up the case of the Inter-Oceanic Highway, a major infrastructure project in the Southwestern Amazon under the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America. We report traffic volumes of various types of vehicles among several road segments during and after paving between 2006 and 2019. The analysis involves statistical models of traffic volumes featuring the effect of year of observation, controlling for a suite of other indicators of the conditions under which traffic was observed. The results show modest increases in traffic volumes over time, which confirms a positive effect of paving. This raises questions about the cost effectiveness of such projects in promoting regional development in Latin America despite the ecological and social consequences.