The Ultimate Guide to DOT Construction Technology
Introduction Growth Of The DOT Identifying Future Opportunities A “Green New Deal” The DOT Toolkit Conclusions
The condition of America’s infrastructure has become a highstakes issue. Traffic congestion plagues our inadequate and crumbling roads and bridges. Neglect has made public transportation almost unusable in some of our most vital major cities. The effects ripple throughout the economy as workers spend more time on stalled subways than in the office, and as companies find the reduced efficiency impacts their bottom lines. At all levels of government, politicians have been promising fixes for years, only to see their plans founder. Some leaders balk at the cost of these projects, as former New Jersey governor Chris Christie did back in 2010 when he canceled the ARC tunnel that would have carried commuter trains under the Hudson River1. Donald Trump rode to victory in the 2016 presidential election partly by promising a trilliondollar infrastructure plan, but his administration has pushed the idea aside as soaring debt has made both his advisors and Congress skittish about taking on so much spending2. Globally, infrastructure projects tend to have lower cost inflation. Infrastructure projects in the US have cost up to 2-3x that of similarly sized projects in the European Union, with no consensus or a good explanation as to why. In the meantime, subway systems continue to degrade. Nations continue using roads and bridges long past their intended lifespan.
Growing cities see even more negative quality-of-life issues as residents struggle with their limited options. As public transportation breaks down, more and more turn to ride-sharing services that increase traffic on the streets, which means even more congestion on already-overwhelmed infrastructure, which makes fixes both more necessary and more expensive. It is a vicious cycle3. These problems present enormous challenges to departments of transportation (DOTs) across the country. A recent McKinsey report suggested future infrastructure solutions that ease congestion will look very different from those of the past4. We will need more charging stations for electric vehicles. We’ll require more bike lanes as people abandon cars and public transportation both out of convenience and over environmental concerns. Accommodations for package-bearing drones that can replace delivery vehicles will also become necessary. The technology now used to plan heavy civil construction projects will change as well. How DOTs retool to meet these challenges will greatly impact the pace at which the nation will fix its dilapidated transportation infrastructure.
The nation’s transportation systems face a difficult future. Years of declining budgets have led municipalities to neglect important infrastructure. That neglect is now catching up with them. Subways in New York City barely run. Congestion in and around Washington, D.C. has made it almost impossible to navigate the region by car. These problems are replicated everywhere across the country. Then there are the questions about what the city of the future must look like. Coastal cities will need to find ways to mitigate the damage caused by rising seas. Larger populations will affect the development of neighborhoods, pushing many cities to build more high-density housing near public transportation. There is a rush to find solutions that are more environmentally-friendly like electric vehicles or making cities more conducive to biking and walking. In this environment, it is imperative that Departments of Transportation at both the state and federal levels retool themselves to meet these challenges. At the moment, repairing or building new infrastructure to replace the old has been hampered by a lack of political will and tight budgets. It is up to the DOTs to make the case for the importance of planning for radical changes in the physical structure of American cities and also to prove they are ready to meet these challenges. DOTs can achieve this transformation by accurately assessing the needs of future construction projects from conception and design all the way through to building and completion. Adopting software that is nimble enough to adapt to as-yetunforeseen challenges is one of the most important steps they can take.