PLANNING, POLITICS, AND URBAN MEGA-PROJECTS IN DEVELOPMENTAL CONTEXT: LESSONS FROM MEXICO CITY'S AIRPORT CONTROVERSY

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ABSTRACT

Using a focus on a failed airport project for Mexico City, this article explores the conditions that enable and constrain urban mega-project development in countries facing simultaneous political and economic transition. The article argues that the Mexico City airport project faced three major obstacles, each inspired by citizen efforts to influence planning decisions: (1) divisions within and between the political class and citizens, driven by democratization, decentralization, and globalization; (2) conflicts between local and national authorities over the relevance of citizen participation in project development; and (3) a strong coalition of local, national, and international allies using cultural identity, historical allegiances, and geographic location to build and expand struggle against the airport. In theoretical terms, this article suggests that the historical and institutional legacies of urban and national development in Mexico have created bureaucratic ambiguities and tensions over who is most responsible for major urban mega-project development. It also concludes that planning authorities have not yet developed institutional structures and processes that can enhance government legitimacy and allow the successful implementation of mega-projects in the face of forceful opposition.

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