Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Health Indicator Report of Community Design: Proximity of Population and Schools to Highways

Motor vehicles are a major source of air pollution in the United States. Research suggests that particulate matter (PM) from vehicles, notably heavy-duty diesel vehicles, may be especially harmful. [[br]][[br]] Motor vehicle pollutant concentrations tend to be higher closer to the road, with the highest levels generally within the first 500 feet of a roadway and reaching background levels within approximately 2,000 feet of a roadway, depending on the pollutant, time of day and surrounding terrain. 3.2% of Utahns, or 88,505 people, lived within 150 meters (492 feet) of a highway. [[br]][[br]] Nearly 17,000 schools in rural and urban areas across the U.S. are located near heavily traveled roads. There are 33 public schools in Utah that are located within 150 meters of a highway. Kane County has the highest percentage of schools (27.3%) that are located within 150 meters of a highway. [[br]][[br]] Exposure to traffic-related air pollution has been linked to a variety of short- and long-term health effects. Children are particularly sensitive to air pollution, because their respiratory systems are not fully developed, they are more active, and they breathe more rapidly than adults. Children also are more likely than adults to have asthma.


Data are extracted from the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network using their API. Class 1 and class 2 roads were selected to represent major highways in the United States. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Functional Classification System classifies interstates as class 1 and freeways and expressways as class 2. Esri ArcGIS 10.1 software was used to calculate the number of schools within a 150m buffer around all class 1 and class 2 roads. Population estimates were based on population counts within census tracts made publicly available by the US Census (2010, 100% count data). The proportion of each census tract included within the buffer area was calculated and summed from the census tract level to the county level.

Data Interpretation Issues

Proximity to a highway is a surrogate for exposure to traffic-related air pollution. The size of potential exposure zones and levels of exposure can vary considerably depending on the pollutant, traffic volume, ambient pollution concentrations, meteorological conditions, topography, and land use.


Distribution of public schools within 150 meters of a highway by county[[br]] Percentage of the population living within 150 meters of a highway by county


Percent of public schools located within 150 meters of a highway[[br]] Number of public schools located within 150 meters of a highway[[br]] Percent of population living within 150 meters of a highway[[br]] Number of people living within 150 meters of a highway


Total number of public schools in a county[[br]] Total population in a county
Page Content Updated On 07/13/2018, Published on 03/30/2022
The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Tue, 28 March 2023 22:38:43 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Wed, 30 Mar 2022 14:03:18 MDT