The Participation Blog

Does Public Engagement Really Increase the Cost of Infrastructure?

Infrastructure in the U.S. is crumbling and needs help badly and soon. We – citizens, taxpayers and voters – need to agree to and be part of the solution to make this happen. But states spent nearly three times as much to build a mile of highway in the ‘80s as they did in the ‘60s. At least one economist blames “the rise of citizen voice” for the high cost of infrastructure in the U.S. – more specifically, public opposition and the cost of lawsuits. I’m calling bull. Blaming citizen voices ignores the fact that good, effective public engagement – in other words, democracy – prevents lawsuits and strengthens support. Litigation and conflict costs go down when public agencies are managed well with qualified staffs, smart rules and clearer processes, minimal bureaucracies and trusting partnerships built with communities and stakeholders. Doing it better ultimately means doing it cheaper.