Meeting Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Needs


By Bob Prieto

Senior Vice President, Fluor

Princeton, NJ, USA

The US Congress seems unable to come up with a comprehensive implementable solution for delivering the infrastructure that the nation requires to be economically competitive and efficient over the coming decades. While the focus and debate over funding is necessary it is not sufficient for meeting these needs. Rather a three part solution is required, one which frames the problem, provides for its financing but most importantly fixes key elements of this problem

This paper looks at the comprehensive approach this national scale program requires and for the aid of those on the Hill, provides a convenient recap in tabular form.


Framing the Problem

The challenge the nation is facing with respect to meeting its future infrastructure needs is significant with all shortfalls denominated in trillions of dollars. But the problem is not just money but rather encompasses how we plan, execute and sustain those infrastructure investments we so make.

Project prioritization methodologies are weak and in some cases essentially non-existent. Politically selected projects, focused on ribbon cuttings often squeeze out the most essential infrastructure investments that must be made. Assumptions in many cases are suspect and the planning fallacy, driven by expertly posed framing questions, is readily evident.

Our approach to the largest of these projects results in significant cost and schedule delays to such an extent that “failure” is an expected outcome. In fact, two out of three large projects “fail”.

Significantly, construction productivity is essentially unchanged over the last 40 years with improvements in design, means and methods offset by extended processes, requirements and paperwork. Not enough has been done to address many of the barriers to improved delivery which persist.

Time, a key value creation point for our economy and a cost factor driven by delay, is not valued. Perceived senses of urgency are rarely shared throughout the entire stakeholder community, manifesting themselves only in the aftermath of disaster, and not even always then.

The significant infrastructure assets we do pt in place and the ones that already exist are not well or consistently maintained. We depreciate without reinvestment; deteriorate rather than sustain. Life cycle performance is not a guiding principle and as such resilience to respond to a changing future is significantly lacking.

While our exposure to emergent vulnerabilities is growing, we have done little to put in place the policy, legal and institutional frameworks to more readily perform in the post disaster environment.

Finally, systemic innovation in the infrastructure industry is largely absent with the incremental innovations we do see unable to close an ever widening gap.

While I have attempted to frame the problem the nation’s infrastructure faces, some will likely judge it harsh while others will judge it as incomplete. Either way, we must define the challenges to be overcome if we are to fix them and that fix will take not only money, but as we will see in the next section, significant improvements to the ways we fund and finance infrastructure.

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To read entire paper (click here)



About the Author


pmwj33-Apr2015-Prieto-PHOTOBob Prieto

Senior Vice President, Fluor
Princeton, NJ, USA



Bob Prieto
is a senior vice president of Fluor, one of the largest, publicly traded engineering and construction companies in the world. He focuses on the development and delivery of large, complex projects worldwide. Bob consults with owners of large capital construction programs across all market sectors in the development of programmatic delivery strategies encompassing planning, engineering, procurement, construction and financing. He is author of “Strategic Program Management”, “The Giga Factor: Program Management in the Engineering and Construction Industry” , “Application of Life Cycle Analysis in the Capital Assets Industry” and “Capital Efficiency: Pull All the Levers” published by the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) and “Topics in Strategic Program Management” as well as over 500 other papers and presentations.

Bob is a member of the ASCE Industry Leaders Council, National Academy of Construction, a Fellow of the Construction Management Association of America, a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council and several university departmental and campus advisory boards. Bob served until 2006 as a U.S. presidential appointees to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC), working with U.S. and Asia-Pacific business leaders to shape the framework for trade and economic growth and had previously served as both as Chairman of the Engineering and Construction Governors of the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the infrastructure task force formed after September 11th by the New York City Chamber of Commerce. Previously, he served as Chairman at Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB). Bob can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by Bob Prieto, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/bob-prieto/