They usually have been, but sometimes in a sort of roundabout way. Transportation engineering in the United States, Europe and most other developed countries is an extremely complex science, involving not just engineering questions, but also economics, sociology and even psychology. Almost all road construction is governed by local or state regulations, or, if you’re talking about interstate transportation, federal rules. These rules specify where you can put a road, how many access points it must have, where it goes and what you’re going to do about traffic flow. Naturally the most direct route between Point A and Point B will tend to foster fuel efficiency and many highways are built specifically because they reduce the amount of driving that needs to be done between various points. A major concern in building anything, not just roads, is how many “trips” it will generate. If you want to build a shopping mall, for instance, you have to calculate how many people will shop there and whether they’re likely to drive just to your mall or perhaps combine the trip with something else nearby, like a grocery store or movie theater that may be accessible on the same road as your mall. All of these policies indirectly take into effect fuel efficiency concerns and the majority of transportation regulations today now have an environmental component.
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