Taking the High Road on Infrastructure Investment

By Erin Shackelford

IRI Director David Wood contributed to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, supported by the Ford Foundation, which examines the development of high-impact infrastructure investments. 

There is a critical need for infrastructure investment in the U.S.  Extreme weather and underfunding of highways, bridges, and transit systems have contributed to a crumbling infrastructure system.  In addition to the potential for dangerous accidents, failing infrastructure has negative social impacts, like decreasing access to jobs or healthy food.  However, interest from investors in infrastructure investment is growing, and long-term investors in particular are increasingly looking to the real economy as a place to invest “patient capital”.

IRI Director David Wood contributed to a recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, supported by the Ford Foundation, which examines the development of high-impact infrastructure investments.  The report, Taking the High Road to More and Better Infrastructure in the United States, highlights the many possibilities of infrastructure projects - good jobs, greener cities, increased access - if they are developed with “high road” standards up front.  The report calls for incorporating four elements of “high road” standards- economic, environmental, resilience, and social criteria- into project design.  Further, the authors argue that P3s, or public-private partnerships, which may be used for financing infrastructure projects, need to be held to the same high road standards that are already embedded in many publicly funded projects.  Project Labor Agreements and Community Work Agreements are tools can be used to help keep P3 projects on the high road.

Infrastructure is an asset class with potential to return high social value.  This report provides a roadmap for cities, and guidance for investors on what high road infrastructure investment looks like.