The Program on Innovation in Infrastructure is a major research program designed to shed light on significant policy challenges facing all level of governments with emphasis on research questions that occur at the nexus of traditional academic disciplines and conventional policy domains. The Program on Innovation in Infrastructure is based on the belief that federal, state, and local policymakers urgently need rigorous empirical analysis of issues that cut across infrastructure systems including transportation, communications, and the energy grid.
Our research agenda bridges conventional specialties to understand four cross-cutting issues:
Privatization: its changing role in infrastructure provision and operation;
Performance Measurement: its emergence in project and budgetary evaluations, both before and after project selection;
Economic Efficiency: its growing use in project evaluation, particularly dependence on cost-benefit and related economic techniques to justify infrastructure projects; and,
Inter-generational communities: the infrastructure needs and challenges in creating new and retrofitting existing communities to better serve the needs of residents of all ages.
Today, the US faces major challenges in developing, maintaining, and financing physical infrastructure systems. Policy decisions about these choices will ripple across the economy and through the lives of families and business owners, with profound, long-term consequences for economic welfare, equity, environmental quality, and national security. The rigorous empirical research for which the Urban Institute is known can help shed new light on controversial policy choices.
This paper provides a general framework for understanding the political economy and fiscal determinants of sanitation service provision by urban local governments. The paper will address several questions: what do we expect to influence spending on local sanitation? Do different fiscal instruments have an impact on expenditure levels? Do increased local revenues lead to increased expenditures over the long term? What role do different stakeholders play in determining expenditure levels? The paper first looks at the role of political factors in constraining local expenditure decisions, then turns to a review of the fiscal determinants of service delivery expenditures.
Misdiagnosis is likely to be one of the bigger health-care safety challenges facing India and solutions are not simple or obvious. While resource-rich nations are still evaluating how to reduce misdiagnosis, the conversation needs to start in low and middle income countries in order to prepare doctors and the health-care policymakers of tomorrow. As we have learnt, even a single misdiagnosis — such as in the case of Ebola in Dallas — can have widespread public health consequences. The new Indian government preparing its new health policy agenda can recognize the role low-cost health IT innovations could play in improving diagnostic accuracy, including many that would be useful for rural India.
Rebuild by Design launched in June 2013 by the federal Hurricane Sandy Task Force. HUD, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the JPB Foundation partnered with the Urban Institute to evaluate the first phase of RBD from conception through design awards. The evaluation found that RBD’s implementation held true to its innovative vision for integrating design competition into disaster recovery and its ambition for regional and resilient infrastructure. Leadership among the core partners and the magnitude of the $1 billion in CDBG-DR funding for awards motivated all of the key stakeholders in spite of an expedited timeframe and daunting requirements.
On January 9, 2013, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published a new final rule for evaluating the applications submitted by metropolitan areas seeking major capital grants under the New Starts program. Despite the old guidelines, it appears that local characteristics, particularly local financial commitment, better explained the New Starts funding decisions between 1999 and 2011 than did Congressional influence or project justification. This new rule provides an opportunity to revisit the program’s design and grant evaluation process.
In the summer of 2013, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), with the assistance of Urban Institute, held a series of Workshops, Urban Water: Strategies That Work. The Workshops informed New Orleans stakeholders about innovative green approaches to stormwater management, highlighting five vanguard cities: District of Columbia, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Portland (OR). Green stormwater techniques offer significant cost, environmental, health, and economic advantages over traditional, or gray, approaches. This report describes the emergence of green infrastructure for stormwater management; summarizes the main learnings from the five Workshops; and includes case summaries of the vanguard cities showcased in the Workshops.