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How to Future-Proof a Generational Investment

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With a new administration in Washington and historically narrow majorities in Congress, a large-scale investment in American infrastructure is a rare nonpartisan opportunity. There is a unique opportunity to adopt a transformative new approach to American infrastructure, one that addresses the vulnerabilities laid bare by the pandemic; embraces innovative technologies, business models, and strategies; and “future-proofs” American infrastructure to anticipate changing habits, emergent threats, and as-yet-unimagined technologies.

The Innovative Infrastructure Initiative (I3) is proposing a "Plan" to accelerate Transformative Infrastructure Projects. Under this proposal, the U.S. government will work with the private sector to identify, support, and fund promising infrastructure projects to help our nation compete and thrive in a rapidly changing world.

I An unmet need,
amplified by crisis

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s infrastructure faced significant pressure. For years, chronic underfunding has crippled our roads, bridges, and transportation hubs, and emergent threats like climate change, greater urbanization, and cyber-security present new challenges to our nation’s infrastructure. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. Decreased mobility is devastating airlines, transit agencies, and energy providers; the shift to remote work and school is overburdening telecommunications networks; and lower energy prices risk decelerating crucial investment in renewable and distributed energy and efficiency measures. Without focus by the new administration and Congress, America’s infrastructure will continue deteriorating post-pandemic, and the next crisis could pose a potentially dire threat to our nation’s basic functioning.

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Weekly U.S. Air Travel Throughput

Passengers

63% decline versus
same period

  • 2019
  • 2020

Transportation Security Administration, TSA checkpoint travel numbers for 2020 and 2019 , accessed on November 16, 2020.

Transit Travel

New York County

52% Compared to
baseline

  • Transit Station Visits

Google, COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports - New York, November 16, 2020.

Visits to Home and Work

New York County

+20% -55% Compared to
baseline

  • Residential
  • Workplace

Google, COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports - New York, November 16, 2020.

II The need for innovation

In tackling these challenges, policymakers should prioritize innovation. Rather than simply restore outdated infrastructure assets, Congress and the new administration should pursue innovative solutions to revitalize infrastructure in key areas, foremost among them: mobility, energy, and connectivity. Only by utilizing cutting-edge technologies and novel business models can we achieve critical objectives in American infrastructure – from improving road safety, congestion, and accessibility; to revolutionizing clean, sustainable, and scalable energy; to ensuring broadband access for all Americans, regardless of location or socioeconomic status.

Siloed future
Siloed future
Integrated future
Integrated future

In an integrated future, infrastructure supports the efficient and scaled deployment of CAVs to solve a range of mobility challenges. In a siloed future, CAVs are uncoordinated and despite their benefits may exacerbate certain transportation challenges.

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  • High impact
  • Medium impact
  • Low impact
  • Not applicable
Innovations Overview Meeting key objectives Resiliency Sustainability Safety Affordability Convenience Accessibility
Cross sector
Advanced analytics
Digital twin Complete virtual representation of a physical asset. Enables reduced project cost and timelines, optimized operations in real-time including maintenance, and improved flexibility / resilience for future scenarios.
Security for IoT and edge devices AI-based cybersecurity solutions to detect and respond to threats more rapidly and effectively than conventional systems. Improves safety and resiliency of infrastructure assets against cyber attacks, which could cause costly disruptions.
Transportation and mobility
Transit
Fixed bus route replacement Fixed, static bus routes replaced with app-based, dynamically routed, smaller vehicles aggregating passengers. Improves service quality, accessibility, rider experience, and overall operating costs versus traditional bus transit, particularly in low density areas.
Mobility-as- a-service solutions and supporting infra Platform of multimodal infrastructure that integrates customer experience across multiple tranportation modes seamlessly. Improves passenger experience, transit time, and potentially costs, and enables policy goals on safety, accessibility, etc. to be tracked.
Roadways & highways
Dedicated lanes for CAVs Dedicated lanes for connected & autonomous vehicles (CAVs) incorporating physical and digital infrastructure needed for safe and efficient operations at scale. Improves road safety, congestion, and emissions, and provides a potentially lower capex alternative to light rail transit systems.
Intelligent traffic management Hardware and software that controls flow of traffic, adapting in real-time to achieve specific policies. Enables management of mobility grid easily and efficiently to optimize and track policy objectives.
Dynamic pricing and advanced toll payments Dynamic usage- and congestion-based pricing enabled by state-of-the-art payment systems. Advances EV infrastructure including new revenue models to replace the gas tax shortfall for road infrastructure due to electric vehicle (EV) proliferation.
Parking
CAV depots Upgraded parking assets to include infrastructure required for CAV operations depots, ghost kitchens, emergency medical centers, or edge computing resources. Provides necessary infrastructure to enable technology-enabled reuse of parking to improve the resiliency and sustainability of a given asset.
Freight & logistics
Autonomous trucking Self-driving EVs optimized for movement of goods and the associated infrastructure required for scaled deployment. Helps to significantly increase road safety, decrease congestion, and improve energy efficiency / emissions.
Connectivity & communication
Wired
Fiber Despite not being a recent innovation, fiber broadband is not an option for most Americans today and there is a large "digital divide." Provides fast and reliable internet access, is the digital backbone for many infrastructure innovations, and is an important national strategic asset.
Networking software
Next generation networking and connecitivity Digital connectivity and computing as a digital utility. Software and cell nodes / hardware for 5G cellular wireless inc. small cell makes wide area networks. Provides ubiquitous connectivity and edge compute with lower connectivity costs, optimized use of resources, and improved network resiliency with no single points of failure.
Sustainable energy
Electric generation
Small, modular nuclear reactors Fission reactors significantly smaller than conventional reactors. Allows for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, heightened nuclear materials security, and lower capex.
Distributed energy
Advanced storage and flow batteries Innovations including duration of discharge, useful life, energy density, charging speed, and use of non-flammable materials. Reduces grid costs, improves reliability and resiliency of the grid, enables integration of renewable energy sources, and reduces overall energy emissions.
Distributed energy resource management and load automation Software and hardware to integrate distributed energy resources with intermittent and unpredictable generation profiles. Enables scaling distributed energy resources (for energy, capacity, and ancillary services) while improving grid operations, increasing sustainability, safety, reliability, and resiliency of the grid.
Electric vehicles
EV smart charging Charging infrastructure to support proliferation of EVs, including use of EVs as grid assets for frequency regulation, balancing, and more. Mitigates range anxiety associated with EVs and helps to advance sustainability goals associated with vehicle electrification. Brings reliable capacity for grid performance, sustainability, and reliability.

III Policy proposals addressing our unmet infrastructure innovation needs

To implement the I3 Plan, we have the opportunity to define, identify, support, and fund Transformative Infrastructure Projects - projects that leverage private capital to match public funds, build in innovation, and provide the opportunity for bipartisan support. The I3 Plan will earmark funding for Transformative Infrastructure Projects from existing programs such as private activity bonds (PABs), BUILD and INFRA grants, TIFIA and WIFIA loans, and the Advanced Research Projects-Energy (ARPA-E). It will also accelerate selected projects’ permitting and procurement and grant them preferential administrative treatment from the EPA, DOE, DOT, USDA, and other relevant government bodies. A multi-agency committee of Chief Innovation Officers – selected from the DOE, DOT, and other federal agencies and sub-agencies – will administer the I3 Plan.

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IV Reimagining how government supports infrastructure investment

Finally, the I3 Plan necessitates a fundamental reimagining of government-sponsored infrastructure investment. The federal government should establish lasting institutions to oversee innovation, including a new ARPA-I program, modeled off of DARPA and ARPA-E, with a mandate to invest in R&D through grants to universities, research institutions, and early-stage companies developing infrastructure innovations. Congress and the new administration can establish “early wins” by engaging the private sector behind the I3 Plan by creating a new Infrastructure Innovation Public-Private Investment Partnerships Program (I-PPIP) to mobilize private capital.

Complex process for Infrastructure approvals:

PROPOSED ACTION CATEGORICAL EXCLUSION? NO YES YES YES UNKNOWN NO NO YES NO SIGNIFICANT IMPACT EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES? ARE POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS SIGNIFICANT? ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT CATEGORICAL EXCLUSION ARE POTENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS SIGNIFICANT? ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Reforms can accelerate permitting:

5 YEARS 2 YEARS Simultaneous drafting by federal and state government Concurrent reviews by multiple agencies Accountability to comprehensive schedules

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