Why Infrastructure Costs So Much

A new book details what planners already know: cost estimates for major infrastructure projects are usually a farce. Another book foretells just how much new infrastructure will be needed in the coming waves of climate migration.

1 minute read

April 14, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


“Bent Flyvbjerg’s ‘iron law of megaprojects’ holds that only 47% of projects finish on-budget; 8.5% finish on-budget and on-time; and 0.5% finish on-budget, on-time, and deliver their intended benefits. Among the most perilous categories: nuclear storage, Olympic Games, dams, and information technology projects. Projects friendly to urban planners, like bus rapid transit, rail, and buildings don’t fare much better.”

“Whether they serve the public sector or private sector, they all have over a 70% chance of cost overruns. And ‘over-budget’ doesn’t mean a dollar or two. In many cases, overages reach 50% or 100% of a project’s original budget.”

“This is why we can't have nice things. Or, rather, this is why we can't have nicer, cheaper, and more timely nice things.”

Displacement, by journalist Jake Bittle, which describes the type of geographic displacement that the early effects of climate change are causing and foretells the dramatic impacts of climate change a few decades from now.”

“The connection between the two books is chilling.... Major projects, and many of them, are going to be required both to mute the effects of climate change in vulnerable places and to accommodate the migrants in resilient places.”

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