Measuring and Improving Infrastructure Performance, which started its work in October 1993 and met five times during a period of about 10 months. To provide a practical background for its study and to explore how concepts of performance are used by decision makers, the committee visited three titles selected to represent situations in which performance measures might be used: Baltimore, Maryland; Portland, Oregon; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. During these visits, the committee met with government officials and other knowledgeable professionals in each area to discuss particular projects and the region's infrastructure more generally. This document is a report of the committee's work. Principal findings and recommendations are summarized in tables ES-1 and ES-2 and on the following pages.
The committee's point of departure was the work of the National Council on Public Works Improvement (NCPWI), embodied in the council's 1988 final report, Fragile Foundations. The committee's scope was limited from the study's start to the specific modes of infrastructure addressed in that report. For much of their discussion, the committee grouped these modes into four broad categories: (1) transportation, including highways, mass transit, and aviation; (2) water, including water resources and water supply; (3) wastewater (both sanitary sewage and stormwater runoff); and (4) municipal waste, including both solid and hazardous wastes. Other infrastructure modes, such as telecommunications, energy production and distribution, and parks and open space inevitably entered the committee's discussion but are beyond the scope of this report. However, the committee sought to generalize their discussions and to deal with performance of infrastructure as an integrated, multifunctional system. Many of the principles and recommendations discussed here apply to all infrastructure modes as a single system.
Infrastructure is built and serves regions on many scales, but the committee focused on issues arising from transportation, water, and waste within urban regions. The organizational context of these issues is primarily local governments, multijurisdictional bodies (e.g., regional councils), and states. This study's systemwide approach, that is, looking across infrastructure modes (water, transportation, wastewater, solid wastes) to define performance in an urban region, runs counter to the typical institutional structure of infrastructure. This institutional structure now consists largely of organizations concerned with both programs and projects within a single mode. Critics cite this structure as an obstacle to improved performance of the nation's infrastructure as a whole because it deters effective thinking about the interactions and tradeoffs among the various modes.