Built to Last: Planning and Funding Resilient Infrastructure

When the federal government spends billions of dollars on transportation, water, and other public infrastructure, the expectation is that these projects are being built to last. But over the coming decades, severe weather events like hurricanes, wildfires, and floods are projected to occur more often, challenging the resilience and structural integrity of these projects, particularly those already well beyond their engineered design life. In 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act, which required transportation planners to consider resilience when planning infrastructure projects. But the law provided little guidance on how to do that, and different communities face different challenges from different types of extreme weather and other natural disasters. Given these challenges, what can Congress do to encourage investments in resilient infrastructure?

The RAND Corporation examined ways to prioritize spending of federal funds on infrastructure and how to incorporate resilience in infrastructure planning. In this briefing, Debra Knopman and Sarah Weilant discuss:

  • Current and historical congressional spending on infrastructure
  • Four elements key for building resilience into transportation projects
  • Recommendations for policymakers

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  • Person pointing at a public transit map, photo by Rawpixel/Getty Images

    Incorporating Resilience into Transportation Planning

    Oct 16, 2019

    A resilient transportation system is one in which critical assets are not exposed to hazards or, if they are, there is sufficient capacity to mitigate the negative effects. How can transportation planners better incorporate resilience into their decisionmaking?

  • Steel beams on the draw span, which needs replacement, are shown on the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2016

    The Long Game on Infrastructure

    Feb 20, 2018

    The Trump administration recently announced its Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America. With its lack of new federal funding, the plan may not be the best path to fixing America's most serious regional, national, and long-term problems.

  • Chickamauga Lock and Dam, near Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Not Everything Is Broken with U.S. Transportation and Water Infrastructure

    Dec 5, 2017

    Transportation and water infrastructure funding and finance in the United States are not nearly as dire as some believe. But a national consensus on infrastructure priorities, accompanied by targeted spending and selected policy changes, is needed.

  • The so called "Great Wall of Louisiana", a 1.8-mile long concrete wall located east of downtown New Orleans, United States, is seen from the air August 19, 2015

    Fixing What's Broken with Infrastructure Policy: Options for Congress

    Jan 24, 2018

    An infrastructure bill is on the agenda for Congress, but what problems would it fix? In this RAND Congressional Briefing, Debra Knopman discusses policies that promote and deter investment and maintenance of water and transportation infrastructure.