Infrastructure Spending Done Right

David Levinson | Van Alen Institute

Previously published in Van Alen Report 19: America's InfrastructureVan Alen Reportis an interdisciplinary digest published semiannually by Van Alen Institute that gathers expert perspectives on subjects that are redefining society’s relationship to cities and the built environment. Van Alen Report 19 offers a sweeping exploration of how leaders may repair U.S. infrastructure in ways that support better and more just outcomes for all.

Infrastructure as stimulus spending appeals to politicians and voters because it appears to kill three birds with one stone. Critical infrastructure is repaired or newly constructed, job opportunities are created for the unemployed, and the greater economy is set on a course for growth. But how and where funding is spent can muddle these objectives. Disproportionate federal spending in rural areas over dense, growing cities undermines long-term economic impact, while growth in automation renders hope of mass job creation dubious. Moreover, politicians often prioritize new infrastructure over maintaining our vital network of existing roads, bridges, and railways. David Levinson, transportation expert and professor of civil engineering at the University of Sydney, explores the real impact of infrastructure spending and argues for the priorities that provide greater prosperity over the long term.

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