Rail, highway projects to dominate America's pipeline

The days of transit systems being content to soak up leftover transportation funding are waning, says a new report published by CG/LA.

In its latest analysis of the North American infrastructure project pipeline, advisory firm CG/LA Infrastructure found passenger rail and water/wastewater sectors will be soaking up the majority of project dollars in the next three to 18 months.

The findings were published in a new report entitled “Building Success: Strategic 100 North American Infrastructure 2015”, at the heart of which is a list of the 100 most strategically important infrastructure projects in the near-term pipeline across the continent.

The list comprises 79 US projects with a combined value of $293.5 billion, 13 in Canada worth $62.9 billion, and eight in Mexico worth $19.9 billion, with projects rated for their strategic importance to local, regional, and national economies. 

By value, passenger rail schemes held the most strategic weight on the list, with 11 pipeline projects together adding up to $126.1 billion. Nine water and wastewater projects followed with a combined value of $49.9 billion, and the oil and gas sector was close behind with eight projects worth roughly $48.7 billion. 

Highway projects led the list by volume with 19 projects worth $31.6 billion, trailed by urban mass transit with 17 projects worth a little more than $41 billion. In third was the port and logistics sector, with 12 projects valued at $15.5 billion. 

There was little strategic weight given to electricity transmission and distribution dollar-for-dollar, with a mere three projects worth $3.2 billion making the list. Freight rail development was only slightly more popular, with four projects in the immediate pipeline valued at about $3.4 billion. 

State-by-state in the US, California led the pack by value with 11 pipeline projects valued at a whopping $127 billion. That was especially notable given that the second-highest valued market was New York, with five projects in the pipeline valued at $24 billion. Texas ranked third with seven projects set for development worth a total of $16 billion. 


Topping the CG/LA list is The Gateway Project, being led by Amtrak and currently in the planning stage of development. The project represents the first increase of regional rail volume into New York City in 105 years, and if completed will double passenger train capacity under the Hudson River. The roughly $7.5 billion project is expected to reach completion in 2030, and another $20 billion will be needed to complete the work on the full portfolio of Gateway Program upgrades. 

Ranked in second place was the $5 billion West Island Light Rail Transit project that is currently in the conceptual stage in Quebec. The $10 billion Texas Central Railway project, which aims to add a high-speed rail connection between Dallas and Houston, placed third. 

The California High-Speed Rail project was by far the highest-valued project on the list. Currently in the construction phase, this $68 billion project being developed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority is aimed at connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles during the first phase via a route that runs roughly through the centre of the state, with stops in San Jose, Fresno, Bakersfield, Palmdale and Burbank. The route will terminate in Anaheim. During phase two, the rail will be extended north to Sacramento and southward to San Diego. The project achieved sixth place on the CG/LA list. 


The report identifies three key trends in North American infrastructure development: first, “now is a time of unparalleled technological opportunity”; next, “globalisation has rendered the former US infrastructure advantage into a weakness due to lack of vision and resources to develop”; and finally, initiative from the private sector “is driving infrastructure innovation and productivity”. 

“The ultimate value of reinvestment in the country's infrastructure depends not only on raising the level of investment but also on directing those resources to strategic projects that will generate the highest social returns,” Anderson said. “Transformative technologies, the chance to seize the opportunities of globalisation, and the historic realignment of public and private sectors define an incredible opportunity to build a new infrastructure paradigm in the United States.” 


Along with the strategic infrastructure report, CG/LA also announced plans to form a 100-nameplate, 50-state chief executive initiative to formulate a plan for development of US infrastructure for use by the country's next executive administration. So far, Anderson said, 23 CEOs have been locked in for participation. 

“The goal is to have an actual concrete plan in place by January 20, 2017, so that when the next administration takes office, they actually have a specific plan in terms of what their action items need to be to more than double the level of infrastructure in the US and to at least quintuple the amount of private investment into projects.” 

The bottom line, Anderson added, is that in the US, “we have got to come to the realisation that unless we come up with a plan to take care of our infrastructure, our average median household income is going to continue to decline”.