Research Reports

Increasing the Value of Public Involvement in Transportation Project Planning

Principal Investigator:

Gary Barnes, Peter Langworthy

March 2004

Report no. MnDOT 2004-20

Projects: Measuring the Impact of Transportation Decisions

Topics: Economics, Planning

The purpose of this project was to understand why public involvement in transportation project planning goes badly, and to determine how the process could be modified to reduce negative outcomes. The project examines these issues by studying public involvement efforts. The project examines how the potential for conflict can be anticipated. A local project had characteristics of having been well run with good intentions, of having been plagued by conflict, and of being documented in a neighborhood newspaper. It was the primary source of reasons why public involvement can turn out badly and was contrasted with three other projects that were more successful with their public involvement. A new model is proposed in this report. The model proposes that conflict can derive from any or all of five independent dimensions, each with its own level of intensity or intractability: - Size and distribution of local benefits or costs - Disagreement about the nature and importance of local impacts - Ability to accurately define and engage relevant stakeholders - Perceived legitimacy of the project - Degree of ideological issues There are two key conclusions. First, situations with serious conflict are different from the typical public involvement effort; they require different tools and tactics built around the specific nature of the conflict. The second major finding is that conflict is not a standard problem to answer with a single solution, but each conflict does not have to be approached individually. Detailed case studies of successful and unsuccessful transportation public involvement efforts are discussed. A model is proposed with five independent dimensions. Researchers conclude that situations with serious conflict require different tactics built around the specific nature of conflict, and that a general theory of conflict management is a reasonable long-term goal.

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