$1.5M gift to advance Cornell’s study of infrastructure policy

Cornell’s work developing innovative policy solutions needed to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, ports and other critical infrastructure has been strengthened through a five-year, $1.5 million gift from the Charles Koch Foundation. 

The gift will help the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy (CPIP), founded by Rick Geddes, professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology, expand its teaching, research and public engagement initiatives. 

“This gift is truly transformational,” said Geddes. “It will vault our efforts to a new level of intensity and effectiveness.” 

Geddes calls the program’s next phase “CPIP 3.0,” following its founding in 2012 and subsequent establishment of a more than 40-person advisory board. 

CPIP 3.0 will produce more peer-reviewed research; support more postdoctoral and Ph.D. students; ramp up collaboration with Cornell Tech in New York City; and host conferences, educational seminars and other events, strengthening ties with policymakers, industry leaders and the public. 

“The world-class scholars within the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy have the potential to discover innovative solutions to critical transportation and other infrastructure challenges, which can improve millions of peoples’ lives,” said Charlie Ruger, vice president of philanthropy at the Charles Koch Foundation. “We’re proud to support their work as the program expands its capabilities to drive progress.” 

Drawing expertise from more than a dozen Cornell departments and schools, CPIP researches and analyzes policies that influence the delivery of infrastructure projects – from their selection, funding and financing through design, permitting, construction, operations and maintenance. 

“Improving and sustaining the nation’s infrastructure is a critical need, and Cornell is in an excellent position to lead policy research and engagement in this important area,” said Emmanuel Giannelis, vice provost for research and vice president for technology transfer, intellectual property and research policy. “This gift supports these efforts and we are proud that CPIP is at the forefront of this crucial mission.” 

The gift will grow CPIP’s portfolio and profile at an important time. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers in 2017 gave the nation a D+ grade for the overall quality of its infrastructure, including highways, drinking water and wastewater systems, levees, power grids and broadband networks. 

Geddes and CPIP have recommended numerous policy reforms intended to improve infrastructure delivery as policymakers grapple with challenges including limited funding and the need to make infrastructure more resilient to natural disasters and terrorism. 

One proposal would address declining revenues in the federal Highway Trust Fund, which relies on gas taxes that have not been increased since 1993. Drivers could pay per mile traveled instead of per gallon of gas or diesel bought. 

Geddes has also encouraged greater use of public-private partnerships, faster adoption of new technologies and capturing more revenue from existing infrastructure. 

“We need more innovative policy solutions to these problems,” Geddes said. 

The Charles Koch Foundation’s support will allow CPIP to strengthen its focus on those solutions while maintaining full academic control over its research and other programming, Geddes said. 

“My goal,” Geddes said, “is to make Cornell the No. 1 academic center for infrastructure policy studies.”

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli