Guest Post by Maria Lehman, National Infrastructure Lead, U.S. at GHD
ASCE’s government relations program is about making a societal difference. Through advocacy and relevant reporting, we capture the imagination of Mayors, Governors, Congress and even Presidents. Congress has indicated it’s serious about providing significant new funding for infrastructure and emphasized it’s a bipartisan issue. If we’re looking at doubling investment, how do we affect change and strategically utilize funding to ensure taxpayer dollars are used effectively?
Start with Strategic Planning
Ensure the investment goes towards infrastructure projects making the most impact. Through strategic planning, you’ll have evidence-based plans to ensure appropriate funding allocation.
What are the steps involved in this process?
Risk Assessment: review the potential risk associated with infrastructure changes and updates. When we push off risk, there is usually a higher cost waiting. Performance-based standards define the framework we should deliver to unleash innovation.
Asset Management: evaluate the holistic aspect of your infrastructure projects and assets to ensure you are utilizing your resources efficiently. Replace, repurpose and rebuild as necessary. The management of assets is approaching a perfect storm of client, technological, regulatory, fiscal and market change.
Utilize New Technology
Our ability to adapt and change has been tested over the past year and continues to be tested over the coming changes in our economy and environment. Harnessing large amounts of data and utilizing new technology helps jump-start new projects at a low cost.
What are some of these technical solutions?
Digital Twins: Ever wanted to see what impact a project would have on its surrounding environment before beginning the work? Digital twins are able to map out scenarios in a safe digital environment for infrastructure testing. Solve physical issues faster, predict outcomes and optimize performance.
Cybersecurity: In our digital-first world the amount of delicate information on our laptops is cause for significant worry and needs protection. To ensure projects/resources are protected, investing in cybersecurity measures is paramount.
Efficient Project Execution
Once you’ve done your due diligence with planning and utilizing digital tools the final step is ensuring efficient execution of the project. The following aspects of project execution have been identified as important indicators to successfully executing an infrastructure project.
Planned and Approved: Regulatory issues and red tape can cause lagging and affect the momentum once funding is received. If possible, start with a backlog of already planned and approved projects as a low-cost solution to get progress started.
Holistic Approach: Identify collaboration between different pieces of infrastructure – bridges, ports, roads – can create a positive domino effect within the ecosystem.
Trusted Advisor: Working with a trusted and experienced partner to plan and carry out projects is essential to ensure delivery on time, on budget and with great results. Rather than follow the status quo a trusted partner rethinks how to deliver a solution and imagine what’s possible.
For instance, at one of our projects in eastern Pennsylvania, we are rethinking the concept of waste from the wastewater treatment process. We’re taking a traditionally expensive problem –the waste stream from the wastewater treatment process — and creating a solution to generate energy and a revenue source. Not only does the new process create a high-value end product, but the entire process is also carbon negative.
Another example of applying innovative solutions to community infrastructure challenges is managing water resources through integrated solutions. In southern California, communities face population growth coupled with drought leading to complex water management issues. Engineering solutions must address these complex challenges – which considering the full life cycle of technology and operations. This California agency is an example of how operational flexibility maximizes water supply and quality.
Will you be ready to hit the ground running if Congress provides the new additional funding for America’s infrastructure? Successfully ensure proper utilization of investments for the best possible outcomes for improved infrastructure projects by approaching a project with strategic planning, utilizing digital technology and ensuring efficient execution.
Maria Lehman has more than 40 years of diverse, increasingly responsible, multi-disciplinary experience in transportation and facilities. She had held leadership positions in both the public and private sectors with expertise in economic development; quality assurance; highway, transportation, and facility planning, environmental assessment, design, management and construction monitoring; as well as emergency management, operations and maintenance. At GHD Maria is focused on Corporate Business Development related to the US Infrastructure Market, promoting growth and sustainable profitability. Her role includes direction, coordination and mentoring of the infrastructure business with the US while providing technical leadership on major pursuits.