Collaboration in Fighting Traffic Congestion: A Study of Minnesota's Urban Partnership Agreement


John Bryson, Barbara Crosby, Melissa Stone, J Clare Mortensen

December 2008

Report no. CTS 08-25



The Twin Cities metropolitan area was selected to participate in a federal transportation initiative called the Urban Partnership program. This required the formation of a multi-agency collaboration of transportation-focused groups in the Twin Cities area. This collaboration - including the external forces affecting it, the internal processes, structures, and competencies that allowed it to operate, and its accountability mechanisms - is the focus of this analysis. Confirming lessons found in the collaboration literature, the Minnesota UPA is a complex assembly of human (individuals and relationships) and non-human (technologies, artifacts, laws, and procedures) elements; therefore, it is not an easy answer to hard problems but a hard answer to hard problems. The research highlights some new findings. Most notably: the role of technology; linkages connecting high-level federal policymaking to local, operational implementation details; emphasis on multiple roles played by sponsors, champions, neutral conveners, process designers, and technical experts; importance of specific competencies; the role of rules and routines as drivers of collaboration; and the importance of spatial and temporal organizational ambidexterity. It is important to note that the work of this collaboration thus far has been virtually invisible to the public, but that will change in the upcoming stages of UPA implementation.

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ITS Institute (RITA)