(e.g., congestion, urban sprawl) if infrastructure elements are optimally designed and located. Well-planned and operated underground infrastructure can, in many cases, improve quality of life and sustainability more so than can similar-purpose surface infrastructure.


Observation: There is little strategic coordination of underground infrastructure development in the United States.

Conclusion 1. Coordinated formal administrative support and management of underground infrastructure as part of an integrated, multi-dimensional, above- and belowground system of urban systems is vital to urban sustainability.

Potential actions:

a. Recognize responsibilities related to formal support for underground infrastructure as part of the total urban system through coordinated planning and operations, fostered technological development, and local and regional rule making.

b. Develop and encourage use of a system for consistent data collection, archiving, and access to be used by all facility owners and operators to aid decision making.


a. Explore within the federal government the most appropriate technical and administrative approaches to facilitate coordinated management of the underground as part of a total urban system. Recognize and coordinate with ongoing research in this area, for example, that conducted by the NRC Transportation Research Board related to road projects.

b. Conduct a technology scan of how countries and cities around the world collect, manage, make available, and use three-dimensional geological and buried structure information.

Infrastructure development, operation, and maintenance require management of the complex physical, social, and environmental systems influencing proper functioning. Development of underground infrastructure suffers in the United States from the lack of a mission agency or organization within the federal establishment dedicated to coordinating development activities across sectors. Project and research funding mechanisms tend to focus on solving particular problems with little consideration of long-term impacts on the total urban system.

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