How to Stop a Highway

So, let’s say your state department of transportation wants to widen the highway in your neighborhood. It’s a horrendous idea—more noise, more pollution, and a bigger tear through city streets. But how do you tell them so? The project’s draft analysis is thousands of pages long, full of technical verbiage you’d need degrees to understand. The public forums are cage fights between cranky neighbors and engineers with jargon-studded retorts for every possible complaint. Besides, what’s the point? The highway’s coming, whether you pipe up or not. That’s what always happens. Right? Ideally, no. Today the U.S. Department of Transportation released a “Transportation Toolkit,” a plain-language citizen’s guide to the government’s process for major infrastructure undertakings, and how to get involved. Along with approachable graphics and flowcharts, the kit goes over the basic timelines that road, rail, bridge, and aviation projects usually follow, crucial concepts, entities, and laws that inform those processes, and the best strategies to make citizen voices heard.

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