History can be a powerful tool for innovation and improving analysis in times of change. One can argue that U.S. infrastructure is currently working through such a period. As hundreds of billions of dollars of private capital is allocated to infrastructure, and the country is on the cusp of passing the first major federal infrastructure legislation in decades, it is a fitting time to look back to analyze how the private and public sectors have worked together best.
This is the first of two history-centric stories that attempts to draw lessons from the past. This piece does not attempt to answer the ground-level questions, but sets — or perhaps resets — the context of the discussion. What is similar? What is different? What actually matters most?
The second piece, which will appear in the September issue of i3, will look more closely at the history of the various approaches currently being proposed to address the country’s infrastructure challenges.