Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Infrastructure Investment Decisions Are Political, Not Technical
Press Release

RELEASE: Infrastructure Investment Decisions Are Political, Not Technical

Washington, D.C. — A new analysis from the Center for American Progress looks at the political nature of all infrastructure projects. While technical analysis is useful to inform infrastructure investment debates, the decision of what to build is always political.

In “Infrastructure Investment Decisions Are Political, Not Technical,” Kevin DeGood, director of Infrastructure Policy at the Center, argues that the result of this is that “all too often, the benefits of access and opportunity flow to dominant racial and industry groups, while the burdens of disinvestment, pollution, and geographic isolation fall on low-income communities and communities of color” and that “only by working through often messy and contentious deliberative planning processes with deep public engagement can a society determine what it needs to build.”

DeGood demonstrates that every aspect of infrastructure is political, including new construction, maintenance, operations, and technology adoption. The brief uses three case examples: the construction of a new transbay crossing in the San Francisco Bay Area, a theoretical artificial intelligence-based transit fare payment system, and the repair and reconstruction of Interstate 81 in Syracuse, New York.

“Technical experts can answer the question of what infrastructure can be built, but it’s up to communities to do the difficult work of weighing their values to decide what should be built,” said DeGood. “Communities should begin infrastructure planning by asking themselves, ‘What are we trying to achieve?’ Only when communities understand their goals will they create projects that serve communities for decades to come.”

Read the issue brief: “Infrastructure Investment Decisions Are Political, Not Technical” by Kevin DeGood

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org.