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Mega-projects in the making : a century of transportation infrastructure investment in Vancouver, Canada Siemiatycki, Matti

Abstract

Mega Projects in the Making explores why the development of infrastructure megaprojects have dominated the urban transportation landscape in Vancouver for over a century, even as such projects have repeatedly failed to meet the public interest for a regional transportation system that is efficient, competitive, equitable, and environmentally sound. Through a multidisciplinary approach that presents specific transportation investment decisions as historically contingent, path dependent, and the product of both individual agency and institutional structures, the decision to consistently favour large-scale projects is situated within the context of the Vancouver region’s spatial, economic, social, environmental and political history. Within this context, it is shown that choices made by a densely interconnected group of decision makers in the early stages of each planning process effectively locked in decisions on the scale of the projects, the route, technology and service delivery mechanisms. The decisions of these individuals were patterned by their own self-interest and pressure from specific interest groups, the institutional norms, traditions and laws that regulated their actions, and also the evolving desires of the general public to see solutions to what has long been perceived to be a worsening urban congestion problem. In this sense, it is illustrated that when problems such as urban congestion are constructed as being mega in scale with significant negative externalities, they legitimize the quest for mega scale solutions. At the same time, large-scale transportation projects are developed for reasons that are beyond the movement of people, and include symbolic messages related to intercity competitiveness, urban progress, visionary leadership and the cultivation of an all-round positive image that can catalyze further investment. When viewed in its entirety, Mega Projects in the Making is more than a project concerned with approaches to congestion relief or mega-project development; it is an examination of the tangible, political and symbolic forces that direct urban change.

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