John Wallsgrove, an architect working for the Highways Agency, says: "Our social research shows that some of the reasons for people not wanting to live in towns are the congestion, fumes and pollution – this report may show a way to make people more inclined to live in towns."
Acoustic lining would be included in the tunnel design to ensure local residents did not suffer noise pollution.
Although urban areas such as Richmond upon Thames in south-west London have been used as the basis for the research, the project is viewed as a template that local authorities throughout the UK may use.
The research is to be published early next year, and will later become part of the Highways Agency's official guidance on roads and bridges.
Architect Cezary Bednarski, contractor Balfour Beatty and structural engineer Techniker are part of the team that has been working on the report for 18 months.
n The Highways Agency has announced a redesigned procurement strategy. This includes new types of contracts such as "early design and build" and a managing agent contractor deal.