Recently, the issue of transportation gained political undertones in Hawaii as the governor’s race started to unfold there (See “Honolulu rail project: political football or policy football?” http://bit.ly/aZeYY7). Now, transportation has taken center stage in the Texas GOP primary race for governor, even becoming the subject of a “comparative” ad by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (See “Texas GOP primary: KBH promises to deal with transportation – mañana” http://bit.ly/bSl1n6).
Transportation projects can be among the most controversial land use issues because they not only involve NIMBYs, but they also usually require some form of public financing or subsidies. Further, these projects become harder to justify when public resources are strained in difficult economic times. Therefore, it is imperative that private sector interests seeking to develop large scale transportation projects do their political homework.
This includes conducting a political viability assessment to determine whether a project is feasible and, if so, the resources needed to ensure its approval. Without building the necessary political support and giving politicians cover, you risk your project becoming the third rail.