Tip Sheets

Geddes: It’s time to ‘future proof’ America’s aging infrastructure with private sector help

Media Contact

Jeff Tyson

Torrential rains and a surging Blue Earth River caused the Rapidan Dam in southern Minnesota to partially fail this week. The torrent and failed dam even caused part of a house to plunge into the river.

Rick Geddes

Professor, Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy

Rick Geddes, director of the Cornell University Program in Infrastructure Policy, says this infrastructure failure and other recent calamities — including the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore — signal the need to boost the resilience of America’s aging infrastructure with the help of private-sector partners.

Geddes says:

“Rather than merely bouncing back from this disaster, the reconstruction of the Rapidan Dam, the Key Bridge, and many other outdated facilities offers an opportunity to ‘bounce forward.’ A vast but quiet technological revolution has occurred in infrastructure in recent years. Those improvements can be incorporated into a new bridge or dam to make it more resilient to a host of growing threats.

“Innovative contracting with private-sector partners can occur to ‘future proof’ infrastructure. This refers to the risk of not adopting new technological developments and design standards in the future. A future-proofed contract places that risk on a private partner that is responsible for infrastructure operation and maintenance, thus helping to ensure that private capital, incentives, and expertise are deployed to make U.S. infrastructure as resilient as possible.

“On June 26, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved major water infrastructure legislation that would accelerate new Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control and resiliency efforts. These legislative efforts are to be applauded.”

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.