University of Vermont Transportation Research Center

2020 Near-roadway population census, traffic exposure and equity in the United States

Document Type


Publication Date



We present an updated analysis of the size and demographic composition of the United States (U.S.) population living near high traffic volume roadways where the risk of negative health outcomes from traffic-related air pollution exposure is elevated using traffic data from 2018 and 2020 census data. We also evaluate disparities in traffic exposure by race, ethnicity, and income using refined equity analysis methods and break down our analysis by light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicle traffic. We find that 24 % of the U.S. population now lives near high-volume roadways, a larger share than 10 years ago. We also find statistically significant associations between higher levels of traffic exposure and greater proportions of people of color and lower household incomes in 89 % of U.S. counties. The increasing size of the near-roadway population, persistent and widespread inequities, and rapidly growing truck traffic raise significant public health and environmental justice concerns.