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Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment Paperback – April 30, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"If you are looking for an economic quotient to keep a sports team in town, 'Mega-Projects' convincingly argues there isn't one. That, of course, is the end of the argument for some, but not the end of the argument for American cities." —James Vesely, Seattle Times, 5/7/2006

"An important new book... The larger question of what public works will be like in the aftermath of the Big Dig deserves serious attention from scholars and practitioners. It is now getting that attention from two of the best: Alan Altshuler and David Luberoff" —Alan Ehrenhalt, Governing

"A significant book that fills an important gap in our understanding of urban development politics. Altshuler and Luberoff have tackled a tremendous topic with both breadth and depth. It is a superb achievement sure to have a lasting impact on urban scholars and policymakers alike." —Lynne Sagalyn, Columbia Business School

"A fascinating, theoretically rich study of the politics of public investment in urban America —with particular attention to the strategies employed by public officials and business coalitions, and to the ways in which they have adapted to new opportunities and constraints over the past half-century." —Jameson W. Doig, Princeton University

"Same article appeared in: San Diego Union-Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Times Union, Orlando Sentinel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tulsa World, Patriot News" —Mark Pratt, Associated Press, Various Newspapers, 12/21/2003

"Same article appeared in: Times Union, Charleston Gazette, The Commercial Appeal" —Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press, Various Newspapers, 1/18/2004

"Guided by Altshuler and Luberoff's excellent analytical survey, we can see that it is also a quick trip backward to the pre-1950 era of urban self-reliance" —Hubert Murray, AIA, RIBA, ArchitectureBoston, 3/1/2004

"Escalating costs, complications, and delays are pretty much guaranteed in major public works projects these days, according to Altshuler and Luberoff... They don't pronounce the death of all megaprojects. But with money short and homeland security costs mounting, they believe such projects may not get much consideration in the near term." —Anthony Flint, Boston Globe, 5/19/2003

"This is a unique analysis in its linking of theory and detail" —W. C. Johnson, Bethel College (MN), Choice, 2/1/2004

"As with a novel in which one recognizes oneself in one of the characters, this survey of politics and projects can be read as a history of Boston from Mayor Collins to Mayor Menino. The striking aspect of the narrative, and perhaps the comfort, is that readers from Seattle, Denver, Atlanta -- or any number of other American cities -- might similarly recognize their own urban histories in its pages.... Guided by Altshuler and Luberoff's excelent analytical survey, we can see that it is also a quick trip backward to the pre-1950 era of urban self-reliance." —Hubert Murray, principal of Hubert Murray Architect & Planner in Cambridge, MA, Architecture Boston, 3/1/2004

"....necessary reading for students and professionals interested in creating vital urban environments of the future." —Arthur C. Nelson, Director of Urban Affairs and Planning, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, The Journal of Planning Education and Research, 4/1/2004

"... Mega-Projects is a major contribution to urban development policy and should attract a broad interdisciplinary scholarly audience, as well as urban policymakers and stakeholders." —Steven P. Erie, University of California, San Diego, Perspectives on Politics, 3/1/2004

"... seeks to comprehend the main lines of thought in US urban politics, to develop case studies of mega-projects that inform theory, and to defend a nuanced affiliation with the Harvard tradition of conservative urbanism.... The excellence of the effort cannot be denied.... The most engaging portion of the book... is the case studies, particularly the chapters on the Big Dig and the Denver airport, both tales well told." —Laura Pangallozi, Rutgers University, Regional Studies, 6/1/2004

"...would make fine additions to most upper-division and graduate urban politics and development classes." —Mark S. Rosentraub, Cleveland State University, City and Community, 11/1/2004

"By letting readers make their own judgments, Altshuler and Luberoff avoid the standard trap that comes from taking a small piece of data and make it fit the wider world. Mega-Projects adds an important body of work to our understanding of urban politics and public choice." —Jay H. Walder and Shashi K. Verma, Managing Director of Finance and Planning and Principal in Corporate Finance at Transport for London, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 12/4/2004

"This is a superbly written book.... The authors provide an intriguing and penetrating examination that only a political scientist and journalist can together offer." —Narry T. Dimitriou, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London, Journal of Urban Design, 11/1/2004

"With 'Mega-Projects,' Altshuler and Luberoff have made a timely and useful contribution to a highly topical debate. In particular, urban planners, transport planners and political scientists, be they academics or practitioners, will appreciate this book." —Luca Bertolini, University of Amsterdam, Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

"MEGA-PROJECTS insightfully blends urban political theory with detailed case studies to arrive at a new understanding of large public works projects in America. Altshuler and Luberoff take on pork barrel politics, the complexities of federalism, the ambiguous role of technical analysis, and the rise of environmental and community activism to create a landmark study of lasting value to planners, engineers, policy analysts, and politicians. " —Martin Wachs, University of California, Berkeley

"A sophisticated history of public investment in American urban areas during the past half-century, framed within an equally sophisticated review of urban political theory. Its meticulous presentation of factual detail is cast within the larger setting where public policy shapes large-scale public works, and public works in turn help shape urban history." —Melvin M. Webber, University of California Transportation Research Center

About the Author

Alan Altshuler is the Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and its Graduate School of Design. He is also director of the Kennedy School's Taubman Center for State and Local Government. David E. Luberoff is the Taubman Center's associate director and an adjunct lecturer at the Graduate School of Design.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Brookings Institution Press (April 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815701292
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815701293
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Don G. Schley on April 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Altschuler and Luberoff provide an in-depth analysis of urban mega-projects focusing on three major categories: highways, airports, and rail transit. They preface their treatment a first-rate discussion and analysis of the theoretical framework and evolving political context in which urban mega-projects are undertaken. In this sense, the book is invaluable for those persons in the project management sector who need to be able to deal with the politics of their own projects (despite the ongoing belief among students that politics are irrelevant to project success). The real driver of these projects is the demand for economic growth and prosperity by important political constituencies, particularly the business communities of these various cities, but also other groups (including neighborhoods and other local institutions) that are interested in promoting prosperity as well. The discussion here is balanced, thoughtful, informed and astute.

The authors detail the era of carte-blanche and laissez-faire mega projects which lasted into the late 1960s, only to be confronted with resistance to groups (such as neighborhoods and environmentalists) that had heretofore been shut own, silenced, or overlooked. They treat the seventies, eighties and nineties as a time of retrenchment, and see the present era as one in which mega-projects will continue to drive forward in specific areas, but in which they will also be far more limited in scope than in the preceding years. They note the constraining force of the "do no harm" doctrine, and detail how this doctrine--promulgated as a consequence of the excesses of the mega-projects of the sixties, when neighborhood and environmental impacts were hardly ever considered (e.g.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read this book for grad school. If you need a lead on case studies related to city planning, this is the book for you.
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