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Research and Infrastructure Innovation Opportunities and Challenges America's public works wfrastructure,~ a complex and dy- naniic system of physical facilities, operations, and management practices, is an essential component of our quality of life, domestic productivity, and international competitivene - . As a society, we expect our infrastructure to brag us power and clean water, ret move our wastes, and enable us to there! and communicate freely. Over time, these expectations have changed; we travel faster, use more water, and depose of greater quantities of increasingly ex- otic wastes. We are more sensitive to the impact of these services on other daily activities: we want clean air, clean water, and the preservation of parks and wildlife regions; we expect services to fin this report, the term public works infrastructures includes both specific flmctional modes highways, streets, roads, and bridges; mass tran- sit; airports Ed airways; water supply and water resources; wastewater management; solid-waste treatment and disposal; electric power generation and transmission; telecommunications; and hazardous waste management and the combined system these modal elements comprise. A comprehension of infrastr~cturc spans not only these public worics facilities, but also the operating procedures, management practices, and development policies that interact together with societal demand and the physical world to facilitate the transport of people and goods, provision of water for drinking and a variety of other uses, safe disposal of society's waste products, pro~rinion of energy where it is needed, and transmission of information within "d between communities. 4
s accommodate special groups such as the elderly and handicapped; and we have high standard of safety that we expect our Rife tructure to uphold. In the early decades of our nation, infrastructure elements were relatively simple and visible. On the frontier, infrastructure might be as elementary as a central wed, with every member of the community drawing from it and therefore conscious of the communal requirements for protecting arid maintaining the well. As our communities have grown larger, our infrastructure has grown more varied and complex and, at the same time, led terrible. In modern times, the public deem almost unaware of the facilities and services of infrastructure until a failure occurs. The collapse of a bridge, a power failure, and freeway gridlock are sure newsmakers with the more catastrophic failures prompting demands for unprovements in design or operations. in these cases, cost often becomes a secondary Rue. This is not true where maintenance is concerned. Without a crisis, the maintenance and improvement of our sewers, tunnels, bridges, and traffic controls Ed other elements of infrastructure tend to be among the first to suffer in tunes of fiscal restraint. The result In many puts of the country ho been a slow but steady deterioration In the physical condition and quality of service of our infrastructure (Peterson, 197~1981; Peterson et al., 1984; U.S. Department of Commerce, 1980; Congressional Budget Office, 1983, 1985~. This deterioration has reached what some observers hare termed crisis proportion (Choate ar d Walter, 1981), posing haz- ard~ to human health and safety, environmental quality, and ecm noetic well-being, for present and future generations. Even those who may question whether a crisis ~ truly at hued must ac- knowledge that America's infrastructure ~ a huge and unport~t national asset that should not be wasted. Annual government spending on public works, $97.3 billion in 1984, understates sum st~tially the significance of infrastructure to the economy and quality of life of the nation (National Council on Public Works Improvement, 1986~. ~ recent Congressional hearings, Speaker of the House James C. Wright, Jr. expressed hm views of the need for action: "We must begin by recognizing that the rebuilding of America ~ not an optional decision. Sooner or later, the work must be Jones (Senate Subcommittee Hearing, Water Resources, liansportatic)n and Infrastructure, July 22, 1987~.
ARE CB"LE:NGI: OF 1~:BUILDING Recognizing the scope of our need to rebuild, and devising and carrying out the plan of action to meet this novel, present a major challenge to the nation's public works profession. While there ~ no doubt that the work of ~mpro~r~g infrastructure smug be done,n serious questions anise as to what ~d how. Can our existing infrastructure serve the nation well enough, if adequately maintained? Or are new ice" needed, perhaps even revolutionary new systems? ~ so, what new ideas, what new systems? These are questions for resear~h.2 The search for answers currently resides in the programs spon- sored by the venous private countries, professional groups, and government agencies responsible for building arid operating in- dividual modes of public works infrastructure. Some modes fare better than others in the competition for scarce research resources, and there ~ no established constituency for research on inDastruc- ture as a whole. Can this mode] orientation support real under- st~mg of infrastructure problems and over new ideas for policy makes' consideration? Or ~ a rrew approach needed? The committee found these questiom competing. If the nation is to meet the challenge of rebuilding its infrastructure, research needed. If research ~ to be effective, our limited resources must be appropriately distributed and effectively applied. The committee concludes that there is a pressing need for a new ageIlda for comprehensive infrastructure research ~ the U.S. This new agenda must accomodate and balance the needs of both ~ndi~ridual modes and infrastructure as a whole. TO OPPORTUNITI1:8 1?0R INNOVATION ~ considering the need for a new agenda, the committee per- ceives that this need coincides with unprecedented opportunities for infrastructure innovation through resect. Ad~ces in many 2 The term ~research. in this report may refer to basic exploration of mechanisms` underlying ~frastracture's performance, applications of scien- tific and technical knowledge to address specific problems, adaptation and transfers of technology established in one discipline to other disciplines, "d the activities needed to apply new ideas from design concepts to demon- strated applications in the field. These various activities, often distinguished as basic research, applied research, technology transfer and demonstration programs, are all needed to achieve innovation within infrastructure systems.
7 fields of science, technology, management, and public policy offer the promise of new ways to maintain, enhance, and supplement today's infrastructure services. The committee envisions a new agenda that Will capture such opportunities. Chapter 2 of this report addresses how these opportunities may be recognized and structured into a new agenda for innovation to rebuild America's infrastructure. The committee recognizes there are barriers to innovation that must be overcome if research ~ to make the most effec- tive contribution possible in meeting the challenge of rebuilding our infrastructure. These barriers, discu~ed In Chapter 3, stem from cultural values, organizational inertia, and fragmentation of funding and policy responsibilities all powerful forces that can block the pursuit and unplementation of innovative solutions to the problems of public works infrastructure. What, then, can be done to overcome these barriers, to capture opportunities, to encourage the Bow of better ideas? The size, diversity, and complexity of infrastructure defies sim- ple answers or a single strategy. It is possible, however, to begin to addre" some of the more obvious problems. Chapter 4 of this report presents the committee' view that a national institution designed to bring cohesion and focus to the subject of ~nfrastruc- ture research and development ~ ultunately needed. The nature of that institution, its funding arrangements, the process for setting research priorities, and the means for amur~g that research leads to practical innovation-these Cues have yet to be addremed. The effort to set a national agenda for research on ~nfrastruc- ture, which must accommodate the legitimate interests of current modal constituencies, will require further work, as recomunended In Chapter 4. CONCLUSIONS Challenge and opportunity, barriers and institutional response -these are the themes of this report. The committee envisions a new agenda for infrastructure research and new institutional mechanisms for ejecting that agenda. Together these steps should encourage innovation ~ infrastructure, thus enhancing ~nfrastruc- ture's contribution to the nation's health, safety, environmental quality, and economic wed being.