A Crossing-Line Between Transportation Evaluation and Natural Capital Assessment: Perspectives on Ecological Economics and Project Evaluation

Hye Kyung Lee1, Hwan Yong Kim2, *
1 School of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, Han-Yang University, Sangrok-Gu, Ansan, South Korea
2 Division of Architecture and Urban Design, College of Urban Sciences, Incheon National University, Incheon, South Korea

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Creative Commons License
© 2017 Lee and Kim.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Division of Architecture and Urban Design, Incheon National University, 119 Academy-ro, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, South Korea 22012, Fax: 82-32-835-0776; Tel: 82-32-835-8473; E-mails:,



Ranging from everyday choices to political arrangements, making the most efficient and effective outcome of the given circumstances is a critical part of decision-making process. Accordingly, achieving a balanced and sophisticated perspective in decision-making process is a hard task. However, there are possible ways to direct this issue, at least to some conceptual extent, and this article identifies possible considerations for more sustainable infrastructure planning decisions.


This study presents a thorough review on project evaluation and transport externalities, especially in terms of ecological valuations. After that, a case study on a high-speed rail in the state of Texas, USA is examined to elaborate suggested solutions in sustainable transportation decision-making.


To appropriately reflect the changes in ecological features induced by a transportation project, location specific or project-based measurements are critical parts. There are certain ways to capture the monetary values of ecological features. Using the suggested methods, two high-speed rail alternatives are compared, and the one with more ecological preservation is considered could save the difference identified in construction in less than 15 years with the savings in monetary values of ecological features.


Because environmental impact is often regarded in a separate study measuring the degree, not the economic values associated with it, precise meaning of ecological externalities is hard to understand. However, many scholars in both transportation and ecology disciplines emphasize the need for more inclusive considerations on opportunity costs of natural environments, and recently technological advances made this issue become more plausible. Based on Texas case, calculating monetary values of ecology could provide a different future about transportation investments, and for that reason, we should think more thoroughly on externalities.

Keywords: Transportation project evaluation, Environmental externalities, Ecosystem valuation, Environmental impact assessment, Benefit-cost analysis, Natural capital.