A Bottom-Up Infrastructure Strategy for American Renewal
As the United States emerges from the pandemic, it is clear that the nation faces a number of major challenges. This report and an accompanying interactive map explore the infrastructure priorities identified by local and regional leaders around the nation.
In late 2020, the Kinder Institute, in collaboration with Henry G. Cisneros, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, undertook a major survey of infrastructure priorities in 100 metropolitan areas and 134 cities across the country. Just over 1,800 high-priority infrastructure projects were identified by survey respondents. The top five project areas included transportation, public facilities, water and wastewater, energy projects and communications.
Based on these results, the researchers prioritize the following three areas as part of a national strategy:
- Post-pandemic infrastructure: The pandemic has highlighted the need to reinforce overlooked-but-essential pieces of infrastructure, such as broadband access, emergency response and health facilities, and public transit, which serves essential workers. Sixty-four percent of respondents identified broadband as an infrastructure priority, while 55% identified public facilities (mostly health facilities) as a priority as well. An infrastructure plan that prioritizes this essential infrastructure should focus on short-term, back-to-work efforts and emphasize the needs of disadvantaged communities to ensure that recovery from the pandemic is equitable.
- Climate Resilience: More than 500 of the 1,807 projects in the survey deal with climate resilience in some way, suggesting this is a major priority for cities and regions. Investment in public transit and renewable energy, both of which can reduce emissions, and clean-water facilities, which can help mitigate the impact of climate change, can help build the nation’s resilience in a time of climate change.
- Urban-Rural Connections: Although the survey focused primarily on cities and metropolitan areas, more than 300 of the 1,807 projects — almost 20% — involved rural areas. Many of these infrastructure projects — including broadband, energy, and transportation — can help harness the prosperity of metropolitan centers to enhance economic opportunities in rural areas.
The report outlines an unconventional bottom-up approach to improvements: Projects should be chosen and executed with the help of local leaders rather than dictated by the federal government.