Fellow Alon Levy has written So You Want to Do an Infrastructure Package for the Niskanen Center. In this report, they argue “to not just build back better, but also quickly, affordably, and flexibly” and offer this summary:
This paper has attempted to explicate both why American infrastructure is so expensive and what to do about it, drawing on the best practices of the lowest-cost countries, as well as my expertise as a public transit researcher. At a high level, the U.S. simply lacks the state capacity to move projects expeditiously. Environmental review laws, byzantine Buy America and prevailing wage regulations, and the constant threat of litigation all conspire to slow projects to a snail’s pace while causing costs to soar. Meanwhile, the dearth of in-house planning capacity at the state and local level means agencies charged with overseeing projects are not merely unaware of international best practices, but would be unable to implement such practices even if they were. Rather than award contracts based on the lowest cost bid, for example, U.S. transit agencies would be better off selecting contracts on the basis of a technical score, and with budgets that are itemized—two approaches that are known to be superior but which require in-house engineering and project management staff to enact.