Building on President Biden’s once-in-a-generation investment in the nation’s infrastructure, the White House Infrastructure Implementation Team convened government, academic and private-sector leaders in December 2022 for a roundtable discussion focused on lowering the cost of infrastructure projects in the United States.
Over one year ago, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. While “infrastructure week” was a punchline under his predecessor, President Biden is delivering an “infrastructure decade.” One year into implementation, the Biden-Harris Administration is already following through on its promise to deliver results by rebuilding our roads, bridges, ports, and airports, upgrading public transit and rail systems, replacing lead pipes to provide clean water, cleaning up pollution, providing affordable, high-speed internet to every family in America, delivering cheaper and cleaner energy, and creating good-paying jobs.
Responding to the President’s directive to deliver projects on time, on task and on budget, Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu and the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force has already released a Permitting Action Plan to strengthen and accelerate federal permitting and environmental reviews by fully leveraging existing permitting authorities and a robust Accelerating Infrastructure Action Plan with over 20 commitments from federal agencies pledging to speed progress and deliver on time, on task and on budget. As a follow-up to the Accelerating Infrastructure Action Plan and Summit, the White House convened experts to discuss lowering the cost of infrastructure projects.
During the forum, participants discussed and responded to the latest analysis on infrastructure costs from world-class researchers at universities and transportation think tanks. Experienced practitioners presented case studies for managing real-world large and complex projects successfully and offered practical recommendations for overcoming cost and schedule challenges. Participants from federal and state government agencies, researchers, professional organizations, and labor representatives shared perspectives on cost drivers, best practices for cost containment, suggestions for process improvements, identification of data gaps, and recommendations for future government actions and a forward-looking research agenda to support ongoing and future reforms.
Participants agreed that more data is needed to enable “apples to apples” comparisons and benchmarking among projects (e.g., unit and project cost data), while also not waiting for additional research on known problems such as workforce shortages. They recommended more intensive process reviews to identify steps with limited value; applying rapid-response techniques adapted from emergency and disaster response efforts; and assessing the impact of various procurement and delivery methods on project costs. They discussed the need to keep the majority of project and budget decisions in the hands of those closest to the project, including agencies and project managers. Federal and state agencies will conduct process reviews, continue to hire and train public sector project managers, and put more resources and focus on setting project parameters at the planning and early design phases as a means of avoiding costly overruns. The new Project Delivery Center of Excellence at the U.S. Department of Transportation will host follow up discussions in the coming months.