Why digitization is critical to the success of IIJA

By Michael Tooley, Industry Lead, Transportation, Aurigo Software

As a child attending grade school in the 1960s, one daily ritual stands out. We would all face the flag of the United States and recite the pledge of allegiance. That pledge ends with the words with liberty and justice for all. At a young age, I pondered what that really meant. As an adult, I find myself still wondering if that ideal will ultimately be met.

The annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) unfailingly offers food for thought, and the meeting last January 2022 was no different. When you listen to all the conversations holistically, what you realize is that America is literally and figuratively at crossroads. The opportunity to set right some of the wrongs committed while building transportation infrastructure in the 1950s is within sight. There is real interest in not only preventing new wrongs; there is interest in doing something quickly and re-establish a world-class transportation system. There is both a push and a pull. The push comes from investments in the form of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), while the pull is from the collective desire to fix a historical error. The question is, does the U.S. need more than intent and will? Apparently, yes. Planners, government administrators, consultants, architects, contractors, on-site teams, regulators, suppliers, and project owners need technology to bring together the data to drive success.

We know that the history of transportation in the U.S. is not a great one. Transport infrastructure was built in the 1950s and 60s, over and through poor and underprivileged communities whose voices were ignored. It ripped neighborhoods apart, broke families, destroyed livelihoods, and led to resentment that continues to bubble to this day. Now the IIJA may prove to be a source of light at the end of the tunnel. The U.S. has begun to infuse $1.2 trillion in federal funds into roads, bridges, railways, ports, waterways, zero-emission transportation, street grids, parks, high-speed internet, and power infrastructure. Funding will also be channeled into reclaiming abandoned mine land and orphaned gas wells. True, some will see the money as a stimulus, much like the one that was required in 2008–09. For others, it is a way of righting the wrongs while improving the quality of life and access to all modes of transportation. Many of the outcomes depend on how federal investments are made. The more they rely on accurate information, the higher the chances of success.

The quality of the information and its management can spell the difference between “getting it right” and “getting it almost right.”

At the moment, the construction industry is a digital laggard. It is way behind in its digitization journey from adjacent industries such as commerce and warehousing. The data for housing, utilities, transportation, and infrastructure lies scattered. It exists in siloed files and spreadsheets on desktops within diverse departments. Sharing this data between stakeholders is a nightmare. Not surprisingly, the lack of digitization has often been identified as a major factor in poor project planning, coordination chaos, delays, budget overruns, and a growing contribution to environmental degradation. Given that there is no single source of truth, there are bound to be mounting errors and delays that will prove expensive in a number of ways.

The obvious solution is to digitize, structure, and format the data so that it becomes shareable and capable of being integrated within the systems across diverse stakeholders. Merging data, cleaning it up, and providing a single source of truth is critical to delivering an integrated and reliable view to everyone.

The construction industry has thin margins that leave no room for error. Poorly informed decisions and execution can quickly add up to millions of dollars being wasted. To be precise, there is no substitute for reliable and readily available data to execute projects. Assessment of infrastructure spending—its adequacy or otherwise—is always difficult and debatable. The real impact of investments unfolds only over a long period of time. As the nation takes stock of the past and initiates the single biggest wave of infrastructure investment in history with the IIJA, it must recognize the urgent need for data-driven projects that inform decisions and guide execution if we are to set right the wrongs of the past and provide the future all our citizens deserve.

With liberty, justice, and access for all.

 

Michael Tooley,

Industry Lead, Transportation, Aurigo Software

For more information or questions, contact our team of capital program professionals at http://www.aurigo.com/request-a-demo/

 

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