example, the “bridge to nowhere”1—have led many to debate the purpose, value, and costs of infrastructure projects. Typically, it is only when infrastructure systems fail completely that their value is apparent.
The lack of transparency in decision-making processes presents a significant obstacle to building public support for infrastructure investments. Contributing to the lack of transparency is the lack of metrics for quantifying the outcomes of infrastructure investments—for instance, improved efficiency or reliability. Metrics are used by some organizations to measure some aspects of infrastructure investment, such as miles of roads paved or miles of sewer lines repaired. However, such metrics do not help decision makers or the public understand what returns they should expect (i.e., improvements in levels of service) from a given investment in infrastructure.
To date, the public dialogue regarding the use of alternative sources of energy to replace oil and other fossil fuels has not focused on the infrastructure systems and components that will be needed to generate and deliver power from these sources. New systems could potentially have significant environmental and social impacts. If local citizens and officials oppose proposed locations for new facilities and infrastructure, the delays in the siting and construction of required facilities may extend several years or more. Finding ways to deliver mobility and power from alternative energy sources while accounting for local desires is challenging. Finding ways to communicate effectively about what is at stake, as well as the risks, costs, and benefits of differing options, will be essential to building public support.
Tackling the range of issues associated with critical infrastructure renewal is a major challenge in and of itself. Attempting to resolve these issues while also meeting other imperatives of the 21st century is daunting. Meeting such complex challenges requires a new paradigm for critical infrastructure renewal, as outlined in Chapter 4.
The “bridge to nowhere” refers to a bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska, on one island in the southeastern part of the state to an airport on another, nearby island. The bridge, proposed for federal funding at a cost of $398 million, became a national symbol of federal “pork barrel” spending. See “ ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ Abandoned.” Available at http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/09/22/alaska.bridge.ap. Accessed January 10, 2009.