From energy to water to transportation, the United States’ aging infrastructure looks increasingly decrepit. With a significant funding shortfall projected for years to come, the pressure is
on teams to find innovative ways to cut costs and time on infrastructure projects.
The country’s roads, bridges and transit systems will see an investment shortfall of nearly US$850 billion by 2020, according to the American Society of Civil
Engineers’ 2015 Infrastructure #GameChangers report. Inland waterways need
US$13 billion through 2020, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and
a 2015 U.S. Department of Energy report estimates that the cost of repairing and
modernizing the country’s power and energy network will reach tens of billions
of U.S. dollars.
Where all this funding could come from is unclear. In the meantime, organizations are seeking more streamlined approaches to infrastructure projects. Project
teams are testing and fine-tuning outside-the-box approaches before pursuing
them on a larger scale.
In 2014, the water board in Washington, D.C., USA completed a US$470 million project to build a wastewater treatment plant that creates power from the
Project: Parking Lot Revamp
Owner: City of Detroit, Michigan
Objective: Prevent stormwater from
running into the sewer system
Innovation: To save hundreds of
millions of U.S. dollars the city
spends to treat the mix of stormwater and sewage, this pilot project
will funnel water from a parking lot
to a nearby vacant field. There, the
water will be naturally filtered and
then enter the Detroit River.
U.S. roads, bridges and
transit systems will
see an investment
shortfall of nearly
billion by 2020.
Source: American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2015
Infrastructure #GameChangers report
At the state and local levels, U.S. government agencies are discarding traditional approaches to help rebuild a
crumbling infrastructure in the face of funding gaps.
Project: South Interchange
Owner: Utah Department of Transportation
Budget: US$14 million
Objective: Relieve congestion and
improve safety for 20,000 vehicles per
day by replacing a 40-year-old highway
Innovation: The construction and design
teams used a cutting-edge diverging-diamond interchange design that made
traffic flow more efficiently—and cost
significantly less than a complete rebuild,
which would have totaled US$100 million.
Project: Deep Creek Canyon Weekend
Owner: Montana Department of
Budget: US$2.75 million
Objective: Replace three flood-damaged
Innovation: Originally, the project was estimated to take nine months. By constructing
the new foundation before removing the
old bridges and building other elements off-site, the project team replaced the bridges
in just three weekends.
NEW WAYS FORWARD