Years of delays, billions in excess: the dark history of great infrastructures

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“In the world of citizen projects, the first budget is really just a down payment,” he says wrote in a guest newspaper column in 2013. “If people knew the real cost from the start, nothing would ever get approved. The idea is to get started. Start digging a hole and make it so big that there is no alternative but to find the money to fill it. “

U.S. Department of Transportation officials declined to comment on the article, but Biden government officials said the new infrastructure package will address decades of neglect and improve the efficiency of the American economy, address climate change, and create construction jobs immediately.

“We will reduce traffic jams,” said Mr Biden. “We will reduce repair and maintenance backlogs, use the latest technologies and make our ports cleaner and more efficient.”

Flyvbjerg, the Oxford professor, said infrastructure is getting more and more expensive at a time when many products like televisions, refrigerators and computers are getting cheaper or better every year.

“Big infrastructures are getting more expensive,” he said, a problem he attributes to institutional sclerosis in government agencies repeating mistakes and selecting infrastructure projects that are unlikely to succeed.

Mistakes, he said, include a lack of transparency to the public, flawed contracts that government agencies deliver to contractors, and a failure to attract enough private investment to take some of the project risk.

The new infrastructure law does little to change that.

Ronald N. Tutor, CEO of Tutor Perini, a California firm that builds some of the largest projects in the country, said the industry has done a good job advancing and completing projects that are complex and unpredictable by their nature.


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