How complicated zoning and permitting, slow construction, and a dearth of certain skills in the public sector cause delays and increase the cost of U.S. infrastructure projects.
"It is one thing to fill potholes; another to fundamentally change the way we do business," writes architect Moshe Safdie about the recently passed federal infrastructure bill. Will the $1.2-billion investment actually improve our obsolete and outdated infrastructure, or just fund studies that will leave implementation to the future?
According to Safdie, the U.S. faces three challenges to its capability to push forward major infrastructure projects. The first is our "convoluted" permitting, zoning, and community input process, which can cause major delays and cost increases. Safdie calls for a more centralized authority that would counterbalance local concerns with broader goals.
A second challenge facing U.S. infrastructure is the glacial speed of construction, which drains both funding and public support for seemingly endless projects. In other countries, writes Safdie, construction projects use multiple shifts to operate around the clock and pre-fabricated parts to speed up construction and reduce disruption to neighbors.
The third major obstacle, in Safdie's view, is a lack of "conceptual and engineering creativity" in the U.S. public sector. Safdie recommends boosting public-private partnerships like the 1990s-era Design Excellence Program or the COVID-19 vaccine development effort, which harnessed public resources and private skills to design and implement public projects quickly and effectively.
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Urban Design, Transport, and Health
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Detroit Bike Share Celebrates Five Years
In its five years of operation, Detroit’s MoGo bikeshare has added electric and adaptive bikes to its fleet of more than 600 bikes.
City of Redwood City
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This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.