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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Making Participation Matter


For more than half a century, critics have pointed to the baleful effects of transportation policy on American metropolitan areas. For example, in 1960, with the interstate highway program operating at full bore, future Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan sharply criticized the outsized promises of the highway builders....

Three decades later, as a Senate subcommittee chair, Moynihan reentered the same debate, spearheading the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), legislation that aimed to reverse the harmful impact of transportation on cities.

Despite the hopes that the initial legislation roused and the passage of two subsequent reauthorizations in 1998 and 2005 reinforcing and extending the novel thrust of the 1991 law, most assessments concur in labeling the results of transportation reform disappointing.

How can the disappointing assessments of the legislation be reconciled with the range of new activity that it inspired? This paper examines that question by comparing the fate of transportation reform in the Los Angeles and Chicago regions since the passage of ISTEA in 1991. In both regions, we show, the transportation field saw the emergence of new actors and regional networks dedicated to changing the processes and outcomes of policymaking in transportation.

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