Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 37
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure 3 OBSERVING LOCALLY Infrastructure is primarily local. Communities around the United States work to maintain, enhance, and develop the nation's infrastructure. The various infrastructure modes are organized and managed differently, but they come together in local areas as a system that supports the local economy and the community's well-being. There have been notable successes in which local communities have been united and mobilized to come to grips with their infrastructure problems. The committee determined that identifying the common elements of these successes will give infrastructure planners, administrators, designers, builders, and operators better understanding and guidance in formulating development and management strategies. This guidance will in turn enhance—at the national level—the performance and efficiency of our aggregate investments in infrastructure. THE COLLOQUIA SERIES The committee undertook its colloquia as fact-finding workshops to explore success stories that illuminated cases of local progress in solving infrastructure problems. The term "success stories" was adopted for discussion, but it was agreed that
OCR for page 38
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure unsuccessful (even disastrous) cases warrant consideration when transferable lessons can be learned. The committee determined that several elements of these stories would be important to the study aims. First, successful (or not so successful) would be defined in the context of the specific community, as reported by local constituents. Second, the cases examined should illustrate means for overcoming obstacles in the search for effective applications of infrastructure technology. While major enhancements or ''quantum leaps'' in infrastructure performance are of great interest, the committee also sought to document incremental improvements as Box 3-1 Examples Considered for Case Study. The committee considered a number of cases that might serve as the bases for colloquia, such as the following: Boston, Mass.—major projects and interactions of government at several levels. Cincinnati, Ohio—business-government coalition direct appeal to the local population to achieve consensus on repair needs and strategy. Cleveland, Ohio—aftermath of fiscal crisis and aging systems. Los Angeles, Calif.—air quality control as a force in transportation and municipal waste management. New York City region—vulnerable systems, responses to system disruptions from major facility failures. Phoenix, Ariz.—arts-engineering coalition in an area undergoing rapid growth. Canadian National Railways—applications of acoustical monitoring for bridge condition assessment and maintenance management. Mexico City, Mexico—environmental reclamation and restoration. Nairobi, Kenya—private sector municipal waste management at low costs. New Delhi, India—nongovernmental organizations mobilizing a range of environmentally more "friendly" infrastructure technologies. Sao Paulo, Brazil—use of methane gas, from solid waste disposal, to operate transit vehicles. Various areas—plastic and other polymeric linings for repair of concrete pipes and canals, and corrosion control on metal fittings in water supply and sewer subsystems.
OCR for page 39
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure well. The committee's aim in general would be to assess how the diffusion of beneficial new ideas into infrastructure practice occurs, and to identify ways to speed and enhance the effectiveness of this process. Third, because infrastructures are typically so long-lived, the committee was particularly interested in cases of effective measurement, monitoring, and evaluation of life-cycle performance. Issues of standard setting and performance evaluation, and the balance between the benefits and costs of monitoring or assessment activities throughout the lifecycle, come into play in trying to determine the characteristics of a good infrastructure management system. Such a system would accommodate meaningful and practical consideration of the trade-offs among infrastructure's initial development (i.e., design and construction), operation, maintenance, and management costs, not only in planning and design but throughout the service life. Committee members were especially interested in data collection and management information systems, analytical models and other management tools to assist problem solving, system management tools well suited to the operation, maintenance, and asset management of existing systems rather than system expansion. Fourth, and closely related to matters of life-cycle management, the committee sought to identify institutional structures that seem well suited to the management of infrastructure in the coming decades. Such structures might, for example, feature cooperative action (teaming) of private and public sectors at various levels, focus on users and their demand for and response to infrastructures, and emphasize specific and comprehensible desirable outcomes rather than abstract goals or objectives. With these four broad aims in mind, the committee considered a wide range of international examples of "success stories." Examples were proposed initially on the basis of committee members' and staff knowledge of each situation (see Box 3-1). After some discussion, the committee developed a "short list" of examples for further consideration. Foreign cases, drawn primarily from less developed countries, were quickly discarded as a basis for initial workshops. Useful
OCR for page 40
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure information and transferable lessons are available from such examples, but the committee concluded that cultural, economic, and institutional differences would require more substantial data collection and analysis to develop convincing conclusions for application in the United States. The committee then defined eight specific selection criteria as the basis for choosing locations that would accomplish the study's broad aims, by illustrating the following: uses of innovative technology; transferability of technology; effectively overcoming barriers to the use of new technology; constituency building and community support; effective citizen involvement; effective improvement of existing infrastructure (versus new building); unique institutional approaches; and effective application of life-cycle cost-benefit analysis as a management tool, particularly in the context of political decision making. After some additional data collection and discussion, the committee selected Phoenix, Cincinnati, and Boston as sites for the first three colloquia. Table 3-1 presents statistics characterizing the three areas. A large number of people in each city participated in the committee's workshop and gave generously of their time and insights. Appendix C is a listing of these participants. Given more time and resources, the committee might have selected additional cities for study. The concerns of infrastructure in smaller communities and rural areas, for example, may differ from those in the medium and larger metropolitan areas included here. The experience of regions in which growth management strategies have been adopted (e.g., Miami, Florida; Portland, Oregon; communities in southern California) may differ from those in which economic losses have been more severe (e.g., Detroit, Michigan;
OCR for page 41
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure St. Louis, Missouri). Further variety in local government structure and metropolitan patterns of intergovernmental relationships warrants further attention as well. As a group, Phoenix, Cincinnati, and Boston represent a middle ground in size, complexity, and economic health. The range of experience may be widened in future studies. In addition, some observers question whether these cases are indeed success stories. Phoenix, for example, is a sprawling metropolis that proponents of growth management cite as an example of why tighter land use, population growth, and environmental impact controls are needed. However, the city has consolidated its jurisdiction over the entire area and thereby eliminated many of the intergovernmental problems that older metropolitan areas face. Boston is dismissed by many observers as simply a case of "pork barrel" funding of transport and past failure to charge prices adequate to cover the real costs for water and sewer services. However, the region has survived decades of major economic change. In choosing these cases, the committee hoped to gain insight into the balance among such conflicting views of what is or should be happening in the nation's metropolitan areas. PHOENIX, ARIZONA The Committee on Infrastructure held its initial workshop colloquium in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 20 and 21, 1992. During the two days, the group visited several recently completed projects, observed broadly the elements of the city's infrastructure, and met with city and state government staff and members of community groups. Background Phoenix has been described by some residents as a city "at the threshold of maturity, evolving from a 'boomtown' into a cosmopolitan city." The city's desert setting, rapid growth, rich history,
OCR for page 42
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure Table 3-1 Summary Statistics on Workshop Cities Statistics Category Phoenixa Cincinnati Boston Year of settlement 1864 1789 1630 Current population Cityb 983,403 364,040 574,283 PMSAc 2,122,000* 1,453,000 2,871,000 CMSAc NA 1,744,000 4,172,000 Current land area Cityd 419.9 square mile 77.2 square mile 48.4 square mile Per capita income CMSAe 18,042* 18,632 24,315 Minority populations Cityf Black: 5.2% Black: 37.9% Black: 25.6% Hispanic: 20.0% Hispanic: 0.7% Hispanic: 10.8% CMSAg Black: 3.5% Black: 11.7% Black: 5.7% Hispanic: 16.3% Hispanic: 0.5% Hispanic: 4.6% Labor force PMSAh Total employed: 1,028,100 Total employed: 754,100 Total employed: 1,481,600 Unemployment: 4.3%a Unemployment: 4.2% Unemployment: 5.1% Cost of living index PMSAi 101.7a 105.8 134.8 One-parent households CMSAj 73,000a 64,000 118,000 Notes: CMSA = consolidated metropolitan statistical area (Cincinnati CMSA, which lies in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, includes the Hamilton, Kentucky area; Boston CMSA, which lies in Mass. and New Hampshire, includes the Lawrence and Salem, Mass., metropolitan areas); MSA = metropolitan statistical area; NA = not available; NECMA = New England County metropolitan area; PMSA = primary metropolitan statistical area (Cincinnati PMSA includes areas in Kentucky and Indiana); "The revised definitions [of different MSA's] appear in OMB [Office of Management and Budget] press release 83-20 of June 27, 1983. The official standards for defining MSA's appeared in the Federal Register, January 3, 1980 (part 6)" (Bureau of the Census, 1992, p. 896). a For Phoenix, all metropolitan area data is for its MSA, which includes all of Maricopa County. b The World Almanac and Book of Facts (1992, pp. 132–133) c Bureau of the Census (1992, pp. 898–904). d Bureau of the Census (1992, pp. 35–37). e Bureau of the Census (1992, p. 440). Information is taken from April 1992 Survey of Current Business, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce. The numbers are for 1990. For Boston, the designated area is its NECMA (Boston-Lawrence-Salem-Lowell-Brockton, Mass.). f Bureau of the Census (1992, p. 35). g Bureau of the Census (1992, p. 34). h Bureau of the Census (1992, p. 385). Labor force is defined as "the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years old and over." i Bureau of the Census (1992, pp. 474–475). Measures "relative price levels for consumer goods and services in particular areas for midmanagement standard of living." National average = 100. j Bureau of the Census (1992, p. 50).
OCR for page 43
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure This page in the original is blank.
OCR for page 44
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure and cultural diversity have been important factors shaping this transition, making Phoenix and Arizona as a whole into what some people have termed "the new California, a place where palm trees and the desert still beckon dreamers" (Johnson, 1991). Very rapid growth in recent years is measured by a more than 30 percent increase in Phoenix's population during the 1980s and even greater rates in surrounding communities. Phoenix is now the tenth largest city in the United States. With very low-density urbanization, the incorporated area of Phoenix and surrounding communities is approximately 1,000 square miles, several times the size of other urban regions with similar populations. Some 50 percent of the land remains undeveloped. Phoenix encompasses large areas of open space reserve, notably in the mountain preserves, and South Mountain Park is, at 17,000 acres, the nation's largest city park. The Salt River Valley, in which Phoenix is located, bears the mark of more than 1,000 years of infrastructure development. The modern settlement of Phoenix began in the late 1860s with construction of irrigation works built on the remains of ancient canals. Archaeologists have traced an extensive system developed by the Hohokam Indians that encompassed more than 300 miles of major canals and 950 miles of lesser canals by approximately A.D. 1450, all constructed with wood and stone tools and manual labor. The disappearance of these canal builders (named Ho Ho Kam—those who have gone—by subsequent native tribes) is attributed by some to extended drought and by others to flood-caused damage and subsequent failure of the canal system. The mythical Phoenix, rising from the ashes of this early civilization, was adopted by early white settlers as a symbol for the community. The modern city and the state of Arizona are the sites of major, noteworthy, and sometimes controversial infrastructure investments such as the Central Arizona Project (water supply), Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and highway Interstate 10. Such projects have often reflected a major national resolve, made in earlier decades, to settle the nation's West and a consequent willingness to invest national resources out of proportion to the region's population and development at the time of decision.
OCR for page 45
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure However, as in other areas, these major investments have not always been viewed with favor by the residents of areas where construction is planned. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, fought against installation of electric power transmission lines that would bring energy to the growing city but would also, in his view, spoil the desert vista from his winter studio and home. An important element in the completion of a number of the city's most recent infrastructure projects has been a unique coalition of the arts and public works communities that has fostered imaginative ways of dealing with community concerns and enhanced the levels of communication and trust between infrastructure professionals and the public at large. How did this coalition develop, and how important has it been to success in infrastructure development? Has Phoenix been unusually successful in its ability to achieve high infrastructure performance through effective management and adoption of state-of-the-art technology? These are some of the questions the committee considered during its visit to Phoenix. The committee was hosted and guided by the directors of the Public Works Department and the Phoenix Arts Commission, members of their staffs, consultants to their agencies, and staff of other city and state agencies. For a portion of both days, the committee visited infrastructure and urban development sites in Phoenix. Each site visited offered unique perspectives on the relationship between infrastructure technology and the community. Asphalt Pavement Using Recycled Rubber Tires and Other Design Features The committee observed that Phoenix makes extensive use of asphalt concrete for paving and overlays of city streets. Extreme summer temperatures, routinely exceeding 100°F, pose particular problems for pavement design and construction in the region. Some years ago, an engineer for the city of Phoenix developed the idea that ground rubber from waste vehicular tires might be used as an asphalt additive to improve overlay adhesion and hot-
OCR for page 46
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure weather performance. Experiments and subsequent applications of the idea demonstrated that the new mix not only had superior working characteristics and physical behavior, but resisted bleaching in the Arizona sun and resulted in a 10-decibel reduction in tirepavement noise, compared to conventional pavements. The city now uses rubber from approximately 300,000 recycled tires annually, and suppliers are preparing to market recycled rubber to other regions.9 The city permitted the engineer to patent the rubber additive technology, subject to granting Phoenix the right to use it without paying royalties. The engineer profited from the patent, and the city has saved substantial amounts compared to royalties that would have been paid had the technology been developed and patented elsewhere. The committee felt that this case illustrates well a major incentive for any unit of government to encourage innovation among staff.10 In planning for the future, certain Phoenix streets and highways have been designed with centerline right-of-way space designated for the development of rail or restricted-guideway bus transit systems. On city arterials, this area is given special surface treatment or lane marking. The committee also visited the Central Avenue Beautification Project and Dunlop Avenue in Sunnyslope, areas in which community groups have worked with the Phoenix 9 The Strategic Highway Research Program reports that about 250 million automobile tires and 25 million truck tires are disposed of annually. These wastes are nearly indestructible and pose fire, health, and other safety and environmental problems at sites around the country. However, tests to date suggest that the performance of rubber and asphalt pavements varies substantially with climatic conditions and construction problems can arise. The technology thus may not work equally well in all regions and remains controversial. 10 Disincentives and obstacles to innovation are the subject of another BRB report, The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building (Dibner and Lemer, 1992).
OCR for page 47
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure Arts Commission to achieve neighborhood improvement through sidewalk reconstruction, street landscaping, and placement of art inspired by local history or artifacts of prehistoric Indian cultures. Papago Freeway and Margaret Hance Park More than 20 years in the planning, the recently completed Papago Freeway is the final link in the Interstate 10 coast-to-coast highway, a subject of long-term controversy and a construction project characterized by its designers as "among America's most unique urban highway ventures." Complex design features and extensive landscaping, customized noise barriers, and other measures were employed to mitigate adverse environmental impact on the communities adjacent to the highway. Extended belowgrade construction, combined with two major multiroad elevated interchanges (termed locally the "Stack" and "Short Stack"), made this highway particularly costly to construct. Slightly more than 94 percent of the construction costs were paid by federal program funds. One major element of both mitigation and cost is the 29-acre Margaret Hance Park, of which 13 acres have been newly constructed atop a half-mile-long tunnel through which the freeway passes. This park, located at the intersection with Central Avenue, one of Phoenix's major arterials, is meant to serve nearby residents and office workers, bus riders using the transit station (provisions for future higher-volume modes have been made here also), and Phoenix residents and tourists expected to visit the attractions or special outdoor events planned for the park. City staff acknowledged that drainage maintenance problems have been encountered and explained the special design provisions to address safety concerns posed by possible vehicle accidents in the enclosed roadway below the park. The park itself served as an amenity that enabled the freeway's completion, balancing community concerns in the political forum in which decisions were made. A prominent feature of the Papago Freeway, found also in other Phoenix highways, is a design profile intended to assist with
OCR for page 78
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure and rebuilding of its surroundings, a chain of major projects marks the progress of development and redevelopment that have made Boston a city with a diversity of people, style, age, and use. Public Transport, Public Involvement, and the Southwest Corridor The diversity of Boston is reflected in the Southwest Corridor project, a relocation and extension of the MBTA's (Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority) Orange Line and related urban design development started in 1979 and, despite completion of the transit line's construction, still evolving. Built on a right of way originally intended for an interstate highway, the corridor's rail and rapid transit facilities serve a large local and commuter population while providing parkland and other open space in several neighborhoods along a corridor 4.7 miles long, from downtown Boston to the community of Forest Hills. The project is an end product of a history beginning with community anger and activism in the 1960s, aimed at stopping highway construction that had disrupted strong ethnic communities, and the conflict with construction industry workers whose jobs would be threatened if highway construction were curtailed. Participants in the discussions about the city's transportation realized that a way had to be found to give something to all sides. In 1970, the governor of Massachusetts halted highway construction and ordered a complete review of all aspects of transportation for the Boston region. After this review, which included then-unprecedented levels of public involvement and review of plan alternatives, the decision was made to improve rail and transit facilities and local and arterial street systems. The transfer of interstate highway funds to other uses, enabled by the 1973 Federal Highway Act, was the first such major transfer in the nation, made possible by the coincidence of what some observers characterize as an unusually talented and committed set of government officials at local, state, and national levels.
OCR for page 79
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure The planning process that evolved in this environment involved the extensive participation of community groups of many types, from residents of neighborhoods located along the right of way to labor union representatives. An unusual coalition of interests evolved as this planning proceeded. The planning team worked closely with neighborhood people to define the nature of appropriate urban design responses to the rail line and stations that would be placed in their areas. The socioeconomic characteristics of these areas spanned a broad range. One technique used, for example, was to ask neighborhood children to draw and discuss what they would like to see in the neighborhood, and then use that information in the landscape design of parks constructed on decking over the rail line. The plan that emerged for the Southwest Corridor replaced the highway with a transit line, as well as extensive parks and station area development. An antiquated elevated section of the old MBTA line was relocated and placed in an open-cut, below-grade right of way, subsequently covered over by decking in segments to provide playgrounds and a stronger link between previously highway-divided neighborhoods. Existing rail lines were accommodated, protecting commuter rail service. Members of the planning team felt that a key point in the planning was acceptance by both elected and transportation agency staff officials that the result of planning would be a complete community redevelopment project, rather than simply a transit line extension. For example, a series of drawings was prepared to illustrate to design engineers the sorts of architectural and visual conditions that should be provided in each area, and how such conditions would contribute to the solution of neighborhood problems beyond those of the transit line alone. The enhanced urban design character along the corridor is credited with stimulating private investment in it and convincing residents to turn toward the corridor in their private planning and design. An element of the project's success has been demonstrated in the community's response to governmental budgetary problems of the early 1990s. Faced with reduced budgets, the Metropolitan District Commission, which is responsible for maintenance of the
OCR for page 80
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure Figure 3-E This approach to downtown Boston—lined with houses and small shops, and passing through flower and vegetable gardens, parks and playgrounds—is built above the Metropolitan Boston Transportation Authority's Orange Line. Much of the rapid rail transit line is, in turn, located in a right of way cleared in the 1960s for construction of a segment of the interstate highway system. Community questioning of the balance and distribution of costs and benefits of this segment led to the nation's first major reprogramming of federal transportation funds from one mode to another.
OCR for page 81
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure park system constructed on decking over the transit line, reduced maintenance activities. Residents of the South End who live along the corridor ''adopted'' sections of the line and took on cleanup activities in their sections. Building the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Also resulting from the review process that spurred the Southwest Corridor were plans to build a third tunnel under Boston Harbor and to reconstruct the elevated Central Artery underground through Boston's downtown area. Management of these two projects was subsequently combined, creating the nation's largest transportation project, estimated to total some $6.5 billion in construction costs (1992 dollars). The combined Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel (CA/THT) project is designed to relieve serious traffic congestion, complete a linking of the Massachusetts Turnpike to Boston's Logan Airport, and remove a visual and physical barrier dividing the downtown area. The project is expected to generate no more traffic than would have been anticipated without this construction. The Central Artery, originally designed to carry 75,000 vehicles per day, now serves 190,000. The new facility is planned to accommodate 220,000 vehicles daily, and will divert thousands of vehicle trips from downtown routes by providing them with direct airport access. Current traffic is heavily congested for 8 hours per day, a figure that is projected to grow to 14 hours a day by the year 2010 unless action is taken. The tunnel to the airport is designed to improve goods movement by serving truck traffic that now must use the badly congested existing tunnels or neighborhood streets in East Boston. Utilities along the Central Artery, now scattered throughout the area, will be consolidated into a few corridors adjacent to the roadway and in designated crossover corridors. In addition to traffic relief, the project is forecast to generate 5,000 construction jobs and 10,000 additional jobs in Boston and elsewhere. Employment generation, along with the consequent
OCR for page 82
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure support of organized labor in the political decision making process, was an important contributor to the coalition building apparent in the CA/THT as well as the Southwest Corridor projects. Some residents and other observers question the wisdom of such major investment in highways, and attribute the decision to make this investment to political and business interests. Federal funding was in fact provided as part of the congressional action to override a presidential veto of a major highway bill. While such questions concerning the project's planning are still discussed, the CA/THT is now under construction, and the management team's primary goal is to maintain progress and thus control the costs and adverse impact of this construction. Continuing opposition from some segments of the community requires the management team's steady attention to avoiding disruption. To this end, the team brings together sound engineering knowledge, good negotiating skills, and tough litigation experience to demonstrate that it can discuss issues of the project's implementation but is prepared to fight if necessary to maintain progress. A threat to progress that has influenced other highway projects is action from environmental groups, and the Sierra Club has expressed solid opposition to the CA/THT projects. However, other environmental groups have seemingly accepted that gains such as the new open space being developed and the projected reduction in air polluting emissions render the project, on balance, an asset to the community, whether viewed as the last activity of the interstate highway era or the first of a new wave of urban investment. The Federal Highway Administration is viewing the project as one of a new generation of transport improvements with fully integrated attention to environmental concerns. Of the estimated $6.5 billion cost of the total project, some 10 percent will be spent to mitigate or avoid adverse environmental consequences or to enhance the environment. In many cases the actions taken to further environmental aims make good economic sense as well. For example, the "fish startle" program intended to reduce fish kills during dredging and blasting operations avoids 70-day project
OCR for page 83
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure delays that would otherwise have been necessary during the fish migration season in Boston Harbor. Massachusetts Water Resource Authority "Turning the Tide on Pollution" Adverse impact and its prevention or mitigation are topics that assume major proportions when discussion turns to the construction project at Deer Island, known as the Boston Harbor Cleanup or more recently as "Turning the Tide on Pollution." The waste-water and water system project, with a projected 10-year cost of $6 billion to $7 billion, is a court-ordered response to what some people view as the Boston region's years of neglect that had turned Boston Harbor into one of the nation's most polluted and persistent violations of federal Clean Water Act (CWA) requirements. Poor maintenance and inadequate capacity had made even the existing treatment plants almost totally ineffective. Funding for improvements, politically controlled, was not forthcoming. Communities along the shoreline were exposed to the pollution and associated odor and health hazard of the millions of tons of raw sewage dumped regularly into the harbor. In 1982 the city solicitor for Quincy, one of those communities, filed suit in the state court against the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), the responsible state agency, seeking relief. A regional environmental group filed suit the following year in federal court against the MDC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Court action was felt to be needed because (1) there was no information available on the existing plant's performance or current environmental conditions, (2) no local constituencies for action had yet formed, and (3) there was no political leadership for action. In addition, the state's elected officials continued to neglect to provide for the MDC's funding needs. The court provided leadership and brought groups together. However, agreements reached under the first suit failed to have significant effect, and a consensus of the parties to the related discussions was that a new entity should take over MDC sewage
OCR for page 84
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure functions. A combination of actions by the two courts and the EPA forced the state legislature to establish the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), which is now responsible for supplying water and sewer services in 61 cities and towns, in the Boston area. Almost immediately after the MWRA was created, the EPA in early 1985 filed suit against the authority for alleged violations of the CWA. By the end of the year, a court-ordered schedule of action had been established to bring the MWRA into compliance with the Act. This schedule has subsequently been modified several times in negotiations with EPA, nearby communities, and other parties to the suits. A major element in the schedule of action is the consolidation and upgrading of sewage treatment operations at the MWRA's Deer Island facility, where a large secondary treatment plant is now under construction. That project, currently estimated to cost $1.5 billion, includes a 9.5-mile, 24.5-foot-diameter, hard rock tunnel under Boston Harbor to discharge treated waste through 55 diffusers located 110 feet under the surface of Massachusetts Bay. Local environmental groups and residents of communities on Cape Cod are questioning the potential impact of the project on aquatic life, while the scientific community is deeply divided on the environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness of secondary treatment for coastal waste disposal. Hence, the MWRA management team is concerned, like the CA/THT team, about timely progress as a primary goal. In the agency's view, delay will only add to the project's already high costs, payment of which has multiplied the water and sewer rates of households in the region to levels that are now among the highest in the nation. Although some 87 percent of the estimated costs of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project are federally funded, 90 percent of the estimated costs of the Deer Island project will be local. Authority staff report that no provision is yet being made to ensure the availability of adequate funds for facility maintenance in the future. The context provided by the court's involvement has required that many alternatives for each major decision be considered, and
OCR for page 85
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure the judge in the case has tended toward selecting the more difficult options (politically or administratively) to achieve environmental benefits. Although other approaches might in principle yield even greater benefits (e.g., several satellite treatment facilities rather than the large Deer Island plant), the practical feasibility of these options is questionable (e.g., neighborhood resistance to the siting of several satellite plants). Nevertheless, little if any consideration seems to have been given to conservation efforts, such as replacement of plumbing fixtures in the region, that might reduce the need for a major treatment plant. How Representative Is the Boston Experience? The Boston experience, reflected in the Southwest Corridor, Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel, and Harbor Cleanup projects, brings to the forefront the question of national interests in local infrastructures, primarily because of their large scale and use of federal resources. In this case, "resources" must be broadly viewed as encompassing the judicial and administrative systems, as well as flows of funding. Scale is of course very significant. The estimated combined cost of the two ongoing projects, $14 billion, even when distributed over a 10-year period, is a significant fraction of U.S. spending on infrastructure. The allocation of those costs among the residents and businesses of the Boston region, the state of Massachusetts, and the nation as a whole is a matter of national importance, as the histories of the three projects illustrate. However, this huge scale necessarily limits the applicability of the Boston experience. The projects also illustrate the trade-offs to be made among services provided by infrastructure, the jobs created by infrastructure investment, and the environmental consequences of construction and long-term operation of the systems. In both the CA/THT project and the Southwest Corridor, jobs were a key issue in building the coalitions that determined that those projects would
OCR for page 86
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure Figure 3-F Infrastructure construction projects are often among the largest and most complex and costly civil engineering undertakings. Operations of this dredge working on Boston's Third Harbor Tunnel project adjust to seasonal fish migrations as well as tides and storms.
OCR for page 87
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure proceed. The Central Artery, projected to reduce congestion without increasing traffic volume over what would otherwise have been expected, could be portrayed as likely to enhance the environment as well as improve transport. Such trade-offs are inherent to all infrastructure investment and operation, regardless of scale. Extracting More General Principles Thus, the Boston experience is in many ways unique. Nevertheless, it yields more general principles that may be useful both in dealing with infrastructure matters elsewhere and in understanding how national policy shapes local infrastructure: Very large projects "crowd out" and force deferral of other smaller but possibly beneficial projects, particularly over the term during which high "carrying costs" must be borne. Powerful political forces tend to favor larger projects or programs, which suggests that smaller projects will be more appealing if grouped into some credible unifying framework. A long-term perspective for financing the maintenance and repair of major facilities is needed. The apparent lack of such perspective in Boston's major projects is a serious flaw suggesting that these major new investments will not yield their highest possible return. This lesson was clearly demonstrated in the Cincinnati experience. The long gestation period of large projects increases their costs and poses inherent obstacles to their ultimate completion. These large projects are often, as one observer termed them, "faith-based" investments. Nevertheless, the Boston experience demonstrates that such projects, once they gain a critical mass, possess a momentum that carries them through changes in political leadership and economic cycles. The availability of funds earmarked for some purposes may give particular agencies or infrastructure modes considerable advantage, sometimes—to the extent that total resources are limited—at the expense of other programs and projects. The
OCR for page 88
In Our Own Backyard: Principles for Effective Improvement of the Nation's Infrastructure progress of the Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel project is made possible in a period of record government deficits by the availability of earmarked highway gasoline tax revenues. Economic growth is a significant element of success in developing the political coalitions needed to accomplish major shifts in infrastructure policy. When all sides can come out better in the end, it is easier to convince them to join together for a common purpose. The need for jobs and the advantages to local businesses combined to facilitate local political support for Boston's large projects. REFERENCES Bureau of the Census. 1992. Statistical Abstract of the United States, Appendix II. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce. Dibner, D.R., and A.C. Lemer. 1992. The Role of Public Agencies in Fostering New Technology and Innovation in Building. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Dolin, E.J. 1992. Environment 34(6):7–33. Johnson, D. 1991. Arid economy, desert states thrive. New York Times May 13: A1. Krieger, A., and L.J. Green. 1985. Past Futures: Two Centuries of Imagining Boston. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Graduate School of Design. World Almanac and Book of Facts. 1992. New York: Pharos Books.