The really BIG problem this country has with its aging infrastructure is becoming well known outside of those of us who think about it for a living. CBS's 60 Minutes ran a piece last November called Falling Apart: America's Neglected Infrastructure. Earlier this month, comedian John Oliver produced a bit on his show Last Week Tonight that ran for 21 minutes tweeking us about ignoring the problem at our peril.
As Oliver aptly points out, infrastructure is not sexy and tends to be taken for granted. So, the problem would not get this attention if it were not big, really big... a journey of a thousand miles big.There are many ways that this needs to be addressed, starting with funding the Highway Trust Fund. However, the scope of the problem is such that a permanent solution will require every party in the infrastructure value chain to figure out how each can be more productive. This is actually why we created Idencia as a product tracking system for precast concrete and steel products used in infrastructure. As we've written before, we believe innovation will define the future of building infrastructure.It's therefore very good to see several federal and state initiatives designed to promote innovation toward greater productivity, including:
- Every Day Counts (FHWA and AASHTO), a state-based program to speed up the delivery of highway projects and to address the challenges presented by limited budgets. EDC is a state-based model to identify and rapidly deploy proven but underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce congestion and improve environmental sustainability.
- MassDOT Innovation + Tech Transfer Exchange, a state-wide conference held March 11 and 12 in which the public sector and private sector convened to exchange ideas. It was out of this conference in 2014 that MassDOT determined to start an Idencia pilot
- Accelerated Innovation Deployment program (US DOT), through which grants are provided to sponsor innovative programs at state DOTs. A press release yesterday announced that state DOTs of Kansas, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia were awarded grants totaling $4.38 million.
As ancient Chinese philosopher, Laozi, stated in Tao Te Ching, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." These are great first steps for our journey.
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