This study, for the Dutch environment ministry (VROM), presents a cost-benefit analysis method for assessing the economics of projects to improve local environmental quality. On the benefit side, monetary figures are attached to reductions in the numbers of people affected by noise and air pollution and to the space consequently freed up for development in closer proximity to roads and/or or business estates.
The calculation method is applied at six ‘high-risk’ sites, with costs and benefits being assessed for two variants: one based on minimal compliance with air quality and noise standards (by intelligent installation of noise screens, for example), the other on scenarios in which new space is created (by sinking a road section in a tunnel, for example). In the majority of cases costs were found to exceed benefits. However, even though our understanding of certain benefits has now improved there are still many key benefits to which no satisfactory monetary value has yet been ascribed The study therefore concludes that the main question at present is how much society is prepared to pay for further improvements to local environmental quality.