In this four-part series, analysts at The Council of State Governments (CSG) examine areas that could create long-term impacts in the lives of American Citizens should the $1 trillion spending bill become law.

The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIB) proposes to allocate federal dollars to a multitude of projects. For example, $2 billion is designated for rural road expansion, bridges and surface transportation projects. BIB also provides $3 billion for the Tribal Transportation program over five years. The Tribal Transportation Program is the largest of the Office of Federal Lands Highway, receiving $505 million in Fiscal Year 2020, according to Public Law 114-94.

In July, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) joined the Coalition for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, lauding the infrastructure plan as necessary because the nation’s infrastructure systems are unacceptable for a 21st Century economy.

However, a 2015 article from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, points to potential negative ramifications of such large-scale infrastructure projects.

“The risks associated with megaprojects — those that cost $1 billion or more — are well documented. In one influential study, Bent Flyvbjerg, an expert in project management at Oxford’s business school, estimated that nine out of ten go over budget. Rail projects, for example, go over budget by an average of 44.7 percent, and their demand is overestimated by 51.4 percent. McKinsey has estimated that bridges and tunnels incur an average 35 percent cost overrun; for roads, it’s 20 percent. Given that many projects are approved with a 20 percent return on investment expected, this leaves governments to pick up the tab for the rest,” the article stated.

The article went on to assert such infrastructure project timelines often are underestimated and that these projects can often take 10 to 15 years to complete.

In addition, there is growing concern about delays caused by a shortage of skilled workers necessary to completing the projects. According to John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor Construction: “I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this. “We will have to staff up, and no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”

Overall, the timeline on some of these massive projects that will result from the Infrastructure bill that is currently sitting in the United States House of Representatives could potentially create more headaches in the immediate future — traffic jams and road closures — with final results decades away.

Sources:

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/megaprojects-the-good-the-bad-and-the-better

https://highways.dot.gov/federal-lands/programs-tribal

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/09/us/politics/biden-infrastructure-plan

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