Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Printable version

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Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at,_Present,_and_Future_Casebook

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Skyline Drive

This page is for a case study on the Shenandoah National Park scenic byway, Skyline Drive, created by Johnathan Selmer, Jay Shuey, and Guillermo Padilla. It is part of the GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) class offered at George Mason University taught by Jonathon Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The idea of Skyline Drive was first suggested in 1924. In a report from the Southern Appalachian National Park Commission to Secretary of the Interior Hubert Work recommending the establishment of a national park in this area, it was pointed out:

Shenandoah National Park, VA - Skyline Drive
“The greatest single feature, however, is a possible skyline drive along the mountain top, following a continuous ridge and looking westerly on the Shenandoah Valley, from 2,500 to 3,500 feet below, and also commanding a view of the Piedmont Plain stretching easterly to the Washington Monument, which landmark may be seen on a clear day. Few scenic drives in the world could surpass it.”[1]

Under the joint supervision of the Bureau of Public Roads and the National Park Service, construction of Skyline Drive began in 1931. By September 15, 1934, the first section of the Drive, 34 miles long, was opened for travel. This made available an extensive region of the Blue Ridge in which was located the vast central portion of the proposed Shenandoah National Park extending from Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap. Within a year more than one-half million visitors were attracted to this portion of the park.

Today, Skyline Drive has grown and now runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and continues being the only public road through the Park – attracting over 1.2-million travelers annually.

Map of Location[edit | edit source]

Map of Skyline Drive — the scenic parkway in the Blue Ridge Mountains, within Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.

History/Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1924: Southern Appalachian National Park Committee selects the site for a national park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, leading to the establishment of Shenandoah National Park.
  • 1929: President Herbert Hoover calls for the construction of a roadway along the Blue Ridge Mountains, initially proposed to be named Hoover Highway but later known as Skyline Drive.
  • January 1931: Field survey for Skyline Drive begins.
  • July 18, 1931: Official groundbreaking for Skyline Drive.
  • Late 1932: Congress approves $1 million for the construction of Skyline Drive.
  • 1933: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is formed and contributes to the construction of Skyline Drive.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt made his first visit to a CCC camp, at Camp Fechner, Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, 1933. Seated at the table are left to right: Major General Paul B. Malone, commanding general of the Third Corps Area; Louis Howe, secretary to the president; Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes; CCC Director Robert Fechner; President Franklin D. Roosevelt; Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace; and Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Rexford G. Tugwell.
  • Mid-1934: Section of Skyline Drive between Thornton Gap and Swift Run Gap opens.
  • 1935: Shenandoah National Park officially established, CCC continues construction on Skyline Drive.
  • October 1, 1936: Skyline Drive completed between Front Royal and Thornton Gap.
  • August 29, 1939: Portion of Skyline Drive from Swift Run Gap to Jarman Gap opens.
  • August 11, 1939: Completion of the Blue Ridge Parkway section between Jarman Gap and Rockfish Gap, later incorporated into Shenandoah National Park as the southernmost portion of Skyline Drive in 1961.
  • 1950s: Original chestnut log guardrails on Skyline Drive removed and not replaced.
  • 1958: Marys Rock Tunnel partially lined with concrete.
  • 1983: Federal Highway Administration begins work to replace original stone walls on Skyline Drive with concrete walls.
  • April 28, 1997: Skyline Drive added to the National Register of Historic Places.
  • September 22, 2005: Skyline Drive designated a National Scenic Byway.
  • October 2008: Skyline Drive designated a National Historic Landmark for its role in the development of national parks in the eastern United States.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

  • Official groundbreaking was July 18, 1931, although the actual field survey began in January of that year.
  • First section of construction initially was to be from Rapidan Camp to the Skyland Resort, some twenty miles, but evolved into the 34 miles from Swift Run Gap (U.S. 33) to Thornton Gap (U.S. 211). Original funds were allocated by the Federal Drought Relief Administration to employ Virginia farmers and apple pickers suffering from the severe drought impacts on the apple and produce harvests in 1930.
  • Congress appropriated $1,000,000 the fall of 1932 to continue construction of the Drive and the Department of the Interior announced that the Drive would extend from Swift Run Gap to Front Royal.
  • Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservation Corps and the first two companies in the National Park Service were formed at Skyland (NP-1) and Big Meadows (NP-2). Shenandoah National Park would eventually benefit from ten CCC camps. May, 1933.
  • Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap to Swift Run Gap was completed in the summer of 1934 and opened to the public on September 15, 1934. This section cost $1,570,479 or approximately $39,000/mile.
  • Skyline Drive from Thornton Gap to Front Royal (32 miles) was opened to the public on October 1, 1936 and cost $ 1,235,177 or approximately $42,000/mile.
  • Skyline Drive from Swift Run Gap to Jarman Gap (32.4 miles) was opened to the public on August 29,1939 and cost $1,666,528 or approximately $51,500/mile.
  • Skyline Drive (then Blue Ridge Parkway) from Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap (8.5 miles) was completed on August 11, 1939 and cost $358,636 or, approximately, $40,000/mile. [The southernmost section of the Drive from Jarman Gap to Rockfish Gap was originally constructed in 1938-1939 as a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and was deeded to Shenandoah National Park in 1961.[2]
  • Fees are collected at entry points to Skyline Drive (Front Royal, Thornton Gap, Swift Run Gap, Rockfish Gap). Pass options include:[3]
    • $30.00 for a seven-day pass for private non-commercial vehicles
    • $25.00 for motorcycles, $15.00 for individuals 16 and older (not in private non-commercial vehicles)
    • Commercial tours pay between $25.00 and $200.00 based on passengers
    • Annual park pass: $55.00 for private non-commercial vehicles
    • America the Beautiful Pass options:
      • Annual Pass: $80.00
      • Annual Senior Pass: $20.00
      • Lifetime Senior Pass: $80.00
      • Lifetime Access Pass (free for persons with disabilities)
      • Volunteer Pass (free for 250 service hours)
      • Free Annual Pass for U.S. Armed Forces members
      • Free admission for fourth graders' families with the Every Kid in a Park Pass.

Institutional Arrangements - Oversight and Maintenance[edit | edit source]

Key Actors and Institutions involved with the development and maintenance of the Skyline Drive include:

Logo of the United States National Park Service, an agency of the United States Department of the Interior.
  • National Park Service (NPS): The designated federal agency responsible for the oversight and maintenance of the entire Skyline Drive.
  • Department of the Interior (DOI): The parent agency that the NPS resides under, DOI directs funding towards NPS projects and collects fees from each park that the NPS administers.
  • Southern Appalachian National Park Committee (SANPC): SANPC played a pivotal role in informing the general public about the overarching national park system and specifically about the creation of Southern Appalachia, as legislated by Congress.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC): The CCC provided the necessary labor force for the construction of Skyline Drive, receieved financial backing, and oversaw the implementation of the scenic byway.
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHA): FHA contributed to the design and provided some oversight during the construction of Skyline Drive. Given its jurisdiction over Federal lands, the FHA ensured compliance with its established standards throughout the development of Skyline Drive.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

In the late 19th century, widespread exploitation of natural resources, particularly in the Western regions, prompted growing concerns regarding wasteful practices and the need for conservation measures.

President Theodore Roosevelt emerged as a leading advocate for conservation, making calls for federal oversight of resources and the protection of wilderness areas. Collaborating with influential figures such as John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, advocated preservation of natural resources from use, while Gifford Pinchot, a forester, called instead for conservation, the proper use of natural resources. Together, environmentalist advocacy of different types led to the establishment of the National Park Service by Congress in 1916, and the preservation of areas including Yosemite and Yellowstone. In addition, the Roosevelt administration implemented significant policies, notably the Newlands Act of 1902 and the establishment of the National Conservation Commission in 1909.[4][5]

The proposal for a ridge road along the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia was initially embraced as part of a new National Park plan in 1924. However, it sparked intense controversy within the conservation community. Benton MacKaye, a key figure in conservation, opposed the road, fearing it would disrupt the wilderness. On the other hand, Myron Avery, known for his leadership in trail construction, supported the road's inclusion in the Skyline Drive project. Their clash highlighted differing views on wilderness preservation versus accessibility.

Despite MacKaye's objections, the road was built, deepening the divide between preservationists and those advocating for broader public access to nature. The conflict underscored the complexities involved in balancing conservation objectives with societal interests. While MacKaye emphasized preserving the untouched wilderness of the Appalachian region, Avery prioritized practical trail construction and public engagement. Their disagreement left a lasting impact on the history of conservation in the United States, serving as a significant chapter in the evolving narrative of wilderness preservation.[6]

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Environmental Impact & Wildlife Management:

The way Shenandoah National Park has approached their environmental and wildlife management has evolved over time to address challenges from increased human activities, including as they pertain to Skyline Drive. A scenic byway stretching 105 miles through the park, Skyline Drive aimed to provide visitors with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the comfort of their vehicles. However, this monumental undertaking altered the landscape and ecosystems and created long-lasting consequences for the park's natural environment.

The Shenandoah Salamander - an endangered species found only in Shenandoah National Park

The construction phase of Skyline Drive involved extensive land clearing, grading, and paving, which resulted in the destruction and fragmentation of local habitats [7]. Habitat fragmentation impedes the movement of wildlife populations, inhibits gene flow between isolated habitats, and increases the vulnerability of species to extinction. Forested areas were cleared to make way for the roadway meanwhile excavations and the construction of bridges and retaining walls altered the park's natural drainage and rate of soil erosion [8]. Skyline Drive's ongoing use as a popular tourist attraction and recreational thoroughfare has continued to impact Shenandoah National Park's environment and wildlife. Influxes of traffic along the roadway introduced air and noise pollution, which disrupted wildlife behavior, and posed risks to pedestrian safety. Regular road maintenance, such as asphalt resurfacing and roadside vegetation management, continue to act as a catalyst of environmental degradation. Invasive species along road corridors pose a threat to native plant communities and exacerbates competition for resources.

Despite these environmental challenges, legislation such as the Clean Air Act, enacted in 1970, have provided regulatory frameworks for environmental protection in Shenandoah National Park. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 required the protection of at-risk species like the Shenandoah Salamander [9]. Recent technological advancements allow park officials to evaluate management effectiveness and monitor wildlife, habitat, and ecosystem health more closely. The SWAS-VTSSS (Stream Water and Sediment Chemistry, Virginia Tech School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences) monitoring program, initiated in 1979, plays a crucial role in evaluating water quality and ecological conditions in mountain streams affected by Skyline Drive and other anthropogenic activities [10]. The program contributes to evidence-based and adaptive management practices in Shenandoah National Park by collecting comprehensive data on stream water chemistry, discharge rates, and ecological responses. The National Park Conservation Association's (NPCA) "Polluted Parks Report" underscores the ongoing challenges posed by air pollution in Shenandoah National Park [11]. Despite its designation as one of only 49 Class I air areas managed by the National Park Service, the park continues to experience significant air quality concerns stemming from external sources of pollution [12]. Efforts to address air quality concerns involve sophisticated monitoring systems, regulatory compliance, and collaborative initiatives to reduce pollution levels and preserve the park's natural resources.

Land Acquisition & Eminent Domain:

The policy of land acquisition and eminent domain for the creation of Shenandoah National Park was a multifaceted and contentious process that unfolded over several years in the 1930s. Discussions about the park's creation began in 1924, but it wasn't until February 1, 1934, that the federal government under Arno Cammerer, director of the National Park Service, announced that the government would not accept land for the park from the state of Virginia until all residents had left the area.

The Thomas family, residents of the mountain land before the park was established. Photo: Shenandoah National Park

In 1928, the Virginia legislature passed a condemnation law which allowed the state to acquire land for park via eminent domain. However, the law faced opposition from landowners who felt undervalued by the state's appraisal process. By 1933, landowners owning about 20,000 acres of land had contested the appraised values, leading to appeal hearings and delays in the acquisition process. The blanket condemnation law also faced legal challenges, most notably in the case of Robert H. Via, who sued the state on constitutional grounds citing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Although Via's appeal was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in November 1935, his legal battle slowed the land acquisition process. Furthermore, an estimated 268 families living in Shenandoah at the time had no legal claim to the land they had inhabited for generations. The total number of families affected by the removals and resettlement efforts exceeded 500.

The "buy an acre" campaign was another significant facet of the park's creation. This campaign aimed to raise funds for land acquisition through public donations. Led by the Shenandoah National Park Association, park backers initiated a campaign aimed at persuading Virginians from around the state to contribute to the land fund. With a slogan advocating that Virginians "Buy an Acre" for $6.00, the fundraising drive raised nearly $1.2 million dollars. Approximately $1 million of funding came from state appropriations at the urging of Governor Byrd. Park enthusiasts also tried to secure donations from noted philanthropists. Carson had hoped to raise $2 million dollars from these notable figures, but only won a small percentage of that amount. With celebrity philanthropists largely absent from the list of supporters and with the onset of the Depression in 1930 sharply curtailing other fundraising efforts, park supporters had raised only slightly more than half of the estimated $4 million dollars needed to purchase the 321,000 acres. Consequently, Carson once again prevailed upon Congress to reduce the park's size. In 1932, Congress made its final acreage reduction, drastically reducing the minimum acreage needed for the park to be established to 160,000 acres, less than one-third the original congressional authorization mandated.

Corbin Cabin - located in Nicholson Hollow, the cabin was constructed in 1910 and is the only structure in the park which remains an intact example of a mountain cabin

The removals began in earnest after the federal government officially accepted title to 176,429.8 acres of land from Virginia on December 26, 1935. By early 1938, fewer than four years after Cammerer's removal order, between 500 and 600 families had permanently left their homes in the park. The removals were often met with resistance, resulting even with some families needing to be forcibly evicted by local law enforcement.

Initiatives were undertaken to assist displaced families in resettling. One such initiative was the Federal Homestead Corporation (FHC), which initially aimed to establish homesteads for former residents. This initiative was stalled due to its extensive bureaucratic process and legal issues. The project was later revived under the Resettlement Administration (RA) in 1937. Efforts of the RA resulted in the construction of homesteads in locations across Page, Greene, Madison, Rappahannock, and Rockingham county and were estimated to cost $6,000 per homestead. Of the more than 500 families affected by removals, only 170 families qualified for and were placed in these homesteads. However, the homesteads included mortgages and monthly bills to which many of these discplaced families were unaccustomed to. Within two decades, none of the original mountain families remained within their resettlement homesteads[13].

Key Lessons and Takeaways[edit | edit source]

In the broader context of national parks, large government projects such as Skyline Drive are an example of planners and policymakers utilizing the government's sole authority to acquire private property for public use through eminent domain. Eminent domain has always been and will remain a heated topic for debate within the United State’s legal system, with the pushback citing constitutional arguments for protections against the deprivation of life, liberty, and property, juxtaposed with the government’s authority to violate those said protections with reasonable cause and just compensation.

Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park serves as a stark reminder of the delicate balance between human development and environmental preservation in national parks. The construction and use of this scenic byway demonstrates the lasting effects that human activities can have on natural landscapes. The National Park Service has committed itself to spreading awareness of related environmental issues and promoting more sustainable practices to preserve America’s most treasured landscapes for generations to come.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

1. How do you think the construction of Skyline Drive reflects the broader tension between preserving wilderness areas and making them accessible to the public?

2. How do you view the ethical and legal implications of eminent domain in the context of conservation efforts and public infrastructure projects?

3. How might compensation initiatives for eminent domain take into account the cultural and historical connections of individuals who lack a legal claim to the land they have called home for generations? Should those individuals be compensated?

4. Scenic roads through national parks offer a chance to experience nature up close. However, they also become arenas for tension among pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, all vying for use of these spaces. How can policymakers balance the enjoyment of these roads for different users while ensuring safety and preservation of the natural environment?

5. Considering the current political climate, do you believe a project like Skyline Drive could be undertaken today? Would a venture of this nature, balancing preservation (protection against use) and conservation (proper use of natural resources), even be considered?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Benson, Harvey (1940). "The Skyline Drive - A Brief History of a Mountaintop Motorway". National Park Service. Retrieved 2024-02-11.
  2. Engle, Reed (2022-12-09). "The Greatest Single Feature". National Park Service. Retrieved 2024-02-17.
  3. National Park Service (2024-01-17). "Fees & Passes". National Park Service. Retrieved 2024-02-18.
  4. Library of Congress (n.d.). "Conservation in the Progressive Era". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  5. Howard, Ella (2016). "Environmental Preservation in the Progressive Era". Digital Public Library of America. Retrieved 2024-02-15.
  6. White, Donald (2008-05-15). "ATC v Skyline Drive". South Shenandoah. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  7. United States Geological Survey (n.d.). "Ecology of Shenandoah National Park". United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2024-02-12.
  8. Jones, Jenny (2011). "Skyline Drive: Engineered With Nature in Mind". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  9. National Park Service (2022-09-28). "Shenandoah Salamander". National Park Service. Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  10. University of Virginia - Department of Environmental Sciences (n.d.). "SWAS-VTSSS Program Overview". Retrieved 2024-02-16.
  11. National Parks Conservation Association (2019). "Shenandoah Polluted Parks Report". National Parks Conservation Association. Retrieved 2024-02-14.
  12. National Park Service (n.d.). "Air Quality Monitoring". National Park Service. Retrieved 2024-02-13.
  13. Virginia History (n.d.). "The Ground Beneath Our Feet – Shenandoah National Park". Retrieved 2024-02-15.

Port Miami Tunnel

This page is for a case study on the Port Miami Tunnel, created by Xiyuan Tang, Yitong Zhou, and Yueying Cao. It is part of the GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) class offered at George Mason University taught by Jonathon Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Port Miami Tunnel, located in Miami, Florida, is a vital transportation infrastructure project designed to improve connectivity and enhance traffic flow in and out of the Port Miami area. The tunnel was conceived to address the growing congestion and facilitate the movement of goods and people between the port and the surrounding areas.

Approved after decades of planning and discussion in December 2007, the project faced a temporary cancellation a year later. However, construction resumed, commencing in May 2010. Subsequently, the tunnel was opened to traffic on August 3, 2014. [1]

On a typical weekday, nearly 16,000 vehicles commute to and from Port Miami via downtown streets, with truck traffic constituting 28 percent of this vehicular movement. [2] Beyond facilitating expedited access for trucks and automobiles heading to the port, the Port Tunnel is strategically designed to optimize traffic flow in Downtown Miami.

The Port Miami Tunnel enhances accessibility to and from the Port, functioning as a dedicated roadway connector that links the Port with the MacArthur Causeway (State Road A1A) and I-395. [2] This tunnel is accessible to all, catering to both cruise and cargo traffic.

Maps of Location[edit | edit source]

Location of Port Miami Tunnel
Location of Port Miami Tunnel

History/Timeline[3][edit | edit source]

  • October 1981– M-D MPO Transportation Planning Committee (TPC) establishes POM Access Task Force.
  • March 21, 1991 – At joint Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)/Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting, members are informed that FDOT, FHWA, Port of Miami and City of Miami endorsed the preferred alternative, which makes  the tunnel a viable project with potential for implementation.
  • February 17, 2006 – FDOT issues a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from proposers seeking to develop, design, construct, finance, operate and maintain the POMT project through a Concession Agreement.
  • October 4, 2007 – M-D BOCC agrees to fund a portion of project ($402.5 million) provided that the City of Miami also contributes a portion of the local funding.
  • December 13, 2007 – The City of Miami Commission agrees to fund a portion of project ($55 million).
  • February 15, 2008 – MAT is named the Best Value Proposer.
  • December 12, 2008FDOT announces that an agreement with MAT will not be reached due to financial difficulties.
  • April 16, 2009 – FDOT announces plans to continue procurement process.
  • May 8, 2009 – FDOT authorizes replacement of Babcock & Brown with Meridiam Infrastructure as the MAT equity partner.
  • June 2, 2009 – FDOT reaches Commercial Close with MAT consortium.
  • October 15, 2009 – FDOT reaches Financial Close with Miami Access Tunnel (MAT) and issues Notice to Proceed for 55 month Design and Construction schedule.
  • May 24, 2010 – Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) issues Notice to Proceed 2, allowing the contractor, Bouygues Civil Works Florida (BCWF), to begin construction.
  • July 31, 2012 - Mining of the Eastbound Tunnel was completed as the Tunnel Boring Machine broke out on Dodge island (PortMiami).
  • May 6, 2013 - Mining of the Westbound Tunnel was completed as the Tunnel Boring Machine broke out on Watson Island.
  • August 3, 2014-The Tunnel was opened to traffic.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

Funding sources[4][edit | edit source]

Total Eligible project cost - $1,072.9 million  

Project Partners
  • Senior Bank debt - $341.5 million  

Provided by  BNP Paribas, Banco Bilbao Bizcaya Argentina, RBS Citizens, Banco Santander, Bayerische Hypo, Calyon, Dexia, ING Capital, Societe Generale, and WestLB.  

  • TIFIA Loan - $341 million  

Federal Highway Administration' s (FHWA) approval of the TIFIA loan was contingent on the provision and approval of financing from the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County.  

  • Equity contribution - $80.3 million (private)

MAT Concessionaire LLC  

□ Meridiam Infrastructure Finance SARL (Luxembourg) provides 89.8 percent of project equity through Meridiam Infrastructure Miami, LLC. (90% equity partner)

□ Bouygues Travaux Public S.A. provides 10.2 percent equity contribution through Dragages Concession Florida, Inc. (10%equity partner)

  • FDOT Milestone Payment during construction - $100 million  
  • FDOT Development Fund - $209.8 million

Availability Payment[edit | edit source]

Besides the $100 million milestone payments during the construction period between 2010 and 2013, FDOT paid MAT  a $350 million final acceptance payment upon construction completion. [5]

The concession for the tunnel was structured under an availability payment model, under which the concessionaire would receive ongoing payments over the life of the concession covering capital and maintenance costs. [6] The Maximum Annual Availability Payment is $32.5 million (2009 dollars) The payment is  based on the availability of the road  [7] Deductions are made from this amount if MAT's operation of the facility does not meet prescribed performance standards. [5]

30 years of availability payments during the operating period comes from a combination of federal and state funds. [5]Responsibility for covering these payments is based on a roughly 50/50 distribution between FDOT and the local public agencies. FDOT will provide an estimated $457 million, which will be paid from its annual budget. Miami-Dade County is providing an estimated $402 million. To complete the funding for the project, the City of Miami has agreed to contribute $50.0 million, which is being financed through a Letter of Credit.

Institutional Arrangement[edit | edit source]

Legal Foundations[edit | edit source]

In 1991, the Florida Legislature, recognizing the public need for “rapid construction of safe and efficient transportation facilities”, enacted Florida Statute§334.30. [8] The legislation was subsequently amended several times over the next twenty years.

With the legislation final amendment in 2004,  FDOT was granted comprehensive authority, with legislative approval, to enter into agreements with private entities to build, operate, own or finance transportation facilities. The 2004 amended version of §334.30 established the following guidelines for PPP contracts: (i) permitted the receipt of solicited and unsolicited proposals; (ii) allowed reimbursements to the private sector through the Toll Facilities Revolving Trust Fund; (iii) refined the guidelines for toll rate setting; (iv) encouraged revenue sharing between the private sector and FDOT; (v) allowed FDOT to use a combination of funding sources for project development, including federal funds; and (vi) limited PPP contracts to 50-years. [9] 

In addition, the bill also requires that no more than 15% of the total annual state and federal funds in the State Transportation Trust Fund be allocated for P3 projects. FDOT is required to submit the P3 into either its five-year work plan, or, in cases of projects of more than $500 million dollars, the 10-year strategic intermodal system plan. [10]

Major actors[11][edit | edit source]

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)  [edit | edit source]

On the Port of Miami Tunnel project, FDOT is the project’s Grantor and will be entering into a concession agreement throughout an undetermined (approximately 30-50 years) amount of time.

The Miami Access Tunnel (MAT) Concessionaire LLC,[edit | edit source]

Comprised of Bouygues Travaux Publics (France), S.A. Babcock & Brown Infrastructure Group (Australia), and Canadian financing partners (Minnesota Department of Transportation )

Responsible for the design, finance, building, operation and maintenance of the Port of Miami Tunnel in conjunction with FDOT.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

The Florida Department of Transportation District 6 (FDOT D6) began a study in 1987 for a master plan to improve the traffic circulation and congestions between the Port of Miami and downtown Miami, FL. This sudy included a tunnel connection between two man-made islands, the Watson and the Dodge islands. Though a finding of no significant impact was completed in 1992, the project remained on hold for about 10 years. [12]

In 2003, Florida's Turnpike Enterprise (FTE) started POMT Re-evaluation Study to update project documents based on present conditions and examine construction methods for preferred alternative selected in original (Project Design & Environmental Study) [3]

In 2005, the FDOT D6 regained its charge over the project and concluded that a bored tunnel under Biscayne Bay was feasible. [12]

Pre-construction analyses identified the significant potential risk associated with the tunnel, as a bored tunnel of that size had never been constructed in the U.S. As a result, FDOT began to explore the possibility of developing the Port of Miami Tunnel as a P3 in order to mitigate the state's risk exposure, drawing on Florida's recently strengthened P3 enabling legislation. Discussions with potential bidders regarding this approach were also positive, leading FDOT to initiate procurement of the project as a DBFOM concession in February 2006.

In May 2007, FDOT announced its intent to award the concession to MAT, comprised of the Australian investment firm Babcock and Brown and the French construction firm Bouyges, a subsidiary of which would serve as the lead contractor on the project. Once funding commitments from the state, county, and city partners were finalized, a formal award was made in February 2008. However, financing for the project soon became caught up in the market turmoil of that year, which would see the failure of both Babcock and Brown and Lehman Brothers, its underwriter for the project. In late 2008, Meridiam replaced Babcock and Brown as the primary equity partner in the concession. [6]

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Unpredictable Geotechnical Conditions[edit | edit source]

Due to the highly porous and inherently unpredictable geology beneath Biscayne Bay, the Port of Miami Tunnel project poses a significant challenge even for the most experienced tunneling contractors. The unforeseeable ground conditions are likely to result in delays and cost overruns .[13] The final ground model from the ground investigation of the Port of Miami Tunnel indicates the presence of weak, highly porous Key Largo coralline limestone in Layer S7.[14] This led to disputes over the additional costs for pumping extra concrete (i.e., grouting) to allow tunneling to continue.[15]It is evident that FDOT cannot bear this risk alone, and if it were to transfer all the risks of geotechnical condition changes to the private sector, either no one would bid or bid prices would skyrocket. [13]

To address these issues, a $180 million geotechnical contingency fund was established as part of the PPP contract to to mitigate extra work costs and delay costs arising out of changed geotechnical conditions during construction.  

The risk of increased tunneling cost was therefore shared. The distribution of this fund is as follows: the first $10 million is borne solely by the concessionaire, the next $150 million is borne solely by the FDOT, and the last $20 million is borne solely by the concessionaire. Extra work costs and delay costs for changed geotechnical conditions that exceed $180 million are considered extraordinary geotechnical losses.[12] If the USD $180 million fund is exhausted, the parties would have the right to terminate the contract.[15]

Finance challenge[edit | edit source]

The project was tendered during the most severe period of the global financial crisis. Prior to finalizing financing, Babcock and Brown, which had committed to providing 90% equity, filed for bankruptcy. As a result, it was unable to meet its cash obligations or secure financing. Initially, FDOT considered either reprocuring or canceling the project altogether. To prevent the project from being reprocured and to limit further delays, local and state elected officials lobbied FDOT to allow another company to replace Babcock & Brown as the 90% equity partner in the MAT consortium.[9] Subsequently, Meridiam joined the consortium as the primary equity investor, replacing Babcock and Brown, and completed financial settlement with the project company, MAT Concessionaire, LLC, in 2009.[15]

The economic crisis not only impacted private partners but also had significant effects on City of Miami and Miami-Dade County. During the economic downturn, real estate values plummeted, economic activity declined substantially, leading to a decrease in property and sales tax revenues, severely impacting the Miami metropolitan area. Both the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County faced difficulties in fulfilling their financial commitments. At the time of financial closure, the City of Miami was trying to offset a $118 million deficit, thus delaying the approval of a $50 million letter of credit intended for project funding. Although the City of Miami's financial commitment was approved in December 2007, a second approval was required before September 25, 2009. Specifically, approval of the city and county's financial commitments was a condition for the TIFIA loan. The extension of the financing deadline allowed the project to proceed, and the City of Miami approved the project's letter of credit on October 8, 2009. Financing was completed on October 15, 2009. Miami-Dade County initially needed to provide $600 million for the project. This amount was calculated based on the estimated project cost of $1.2 billion, split evenly with the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2006, the county developed a financing plan of approximately $489 million. As part of this plan, the county explored the possibility of tunnel tolls. However, the cruise industry at the Port of Miami opposed this tolling method, as it would increase both their employees' actual costs and an additional fee per cruise ticket for customers. After the estimated total project cost was reduced to $900 million, the county's contribution was reduced to $402 million. [9]

Lessons Learned/Takeaways[edit | edit source]

The POMT was the second availability payment P3 project to reach financial close in the United States. It is innovative in several aspects, providing valuable lessons for the construction industry at large and the PPP market in particular.

Risk allocation is a key focus. In general, the Availability Payment scheme will emphasize transferring sufficient risk, including significant construction and operating risk, to the Concessionaire and discouraging non-performance. All risks not expressly assumed in part or whole by FDOT are assumed by the Concessionaire. In addition, FDOT recognizes the unique nature of the Project’s geotechnical risk and the need to allocate it appropriately between FDOT and the Concessionaire. While in many PPP projects involving construction, most of the construction risks are allocated to the construction contractor, tunnel projects may entail particularly high risks related to unforeseen ground conditions, delays, and cost overruns. The upfront consideration of significant construction and financial risks through the establishment of a contingency fund enabled a satisfactory outcome when these risks materialized during the construction period. In this project, risks that were beyond the control of either party were shared, which had a positive impact on the working relationship between the parties.  It ensured a fair and optimized risk allocation and helped maintain a positive relationship between the parties.

Government support and cooperation between different levels of government are also critical for large projects like POMT. This support and cooperation began in the project structuring phase, where funding was provided by federal, state, county, and city sources, with the City of Miami also granting land access. Given the decision not to charge tolls, ongoing funding from government departments is crucial. Joint funding, continuous involvement, and political support from the four different levels of government (federal, state, county, and city) have helped overcome challenges during construction.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects? In what cases does this model work better?
  2. How does the availability payment model in public-private partnerships affect project financing and operations? How does this model incentivize the private sector to provide long-term reliable infrastructure services?
  3. Do you think the current public-private partnership model based on risk allocation needs to be improved in the future? Or can the PPP mode such as the Port of Miami Tunnel continue to be used?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Tunnel To PortMiami Opening Sunday Morning". August 2, 2014.
  2. a b "PortMiami Tunnel Information".
  3. a b "Project History".
  4. Lovell, Robert (18 Nov 2009). "Port of Miami Tunnel P3 Project".
  5. a b c "INNOVATIVE FINANCE SUPPORT: Port of Miami Tunnel".
  6. a b "Port of Miami Tunnel, Miami, FL". September 9, 2014.
  7. "FINANCIAL FACT SHEET" (PDF). February 1, 2010.
  9. a b c "Port of Miami Tunnel: Case Study on A DBFOM Contract with Availability Payments".
  11. "Port Miami Tunnel: Glossary".
  12. a b c Chen, Wern-Ping (Sep 2009). "Port of Miami tunnel tender design and update". Littleton. Vol. 61, Iss. 9. {{cite journal}}: |volume= has extra text (help)
  13. a b Harder, Patrick (December 2009). "Port of Miami Tunnel: Digging Through Novel Risks".
  14. DiPonio, Michael; Dixon, Dixon. Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference. Society for Mining Metallurgy and Exploration, Englewood, 2013.
  15. a b c "Key Events Dispute - Unforeseen Ground Conditions".

Metro Flood Diversion (MN/ND)

This page is a case study on the Metro Flood Diversion Project in Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota, created by Abigail Dodson, Ameera Ali, and Shareef Ibrahim. It is part of the GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) class offered at George Mason University taught by Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The 1997 Red River Flood in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area caused extensive damage, displacing thousands and damaging schools, businesses, government offices, and homes. In response, the Metro Flood Diversion Project was initiated as a pivotal infrastructure initiative to mitigate flooding risks in the region, spanning from Fargo, North Dakota, to Moorhead, Minnesota. Its primary goal was to address the historical flooding issues caused by the overflow of the Red River during snow melt or heavy rainfall. The Metro Flood Diversion Project comprises essential components, including a diversion channel, control structures, levees, embankments, environmental considerations, and community engagement and funding. A central feature of the project is the diversion channel, designed to redirect excess water from the Red River during flood events, thus bypassing the metropolitan area. This project represents a collaborative effort between two states to protect the Fargo-Moorhead region from the devastating effects of flooding and enhance the resilience of local communities against future weather catastrophes. This project marks the first Public-Private Partnership (P3) venture undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, representing a nationwide initiative for the split-delivery model. It is North America's leading P3 water management endeavor, setting a precedent for collaborative infrastructure development. The project also represents a groundbreaking green finance initiative for climate change adaptation in the United States, exemplifying innovative approaches to environmental resilience.

Map of Location[edit | edit source]

Metro Flood Diversion Project Map

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

Sorlie Bridge Flooding - Red River Flood of 1997

1997: Major flooding occurred after Blizzard Hannah. The Red River rose to a high of 44.83 feet and caused over $6.4 billion of damage (after inflation) to Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota . [1]

1998 - 2007: The Fargo and Moorhead communities recover from the effects of the Red River Flood. The local governments use buy-out programs to manage properties in high flood areas. Businesses like the Alerus Center and the Ralph Engelstad Arena reopen. A commercial office complex center is built. [1]

2008: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a feasibility study for a flood diversion project.

2009: The Red River floods.

2010: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers publishes the Draft Feasibility Report and Environmental Impact Statement. [2] Two diversion projects were proposed from this study: One in North Dakota and one in Minnesota.

2011: The Red River floods.

2014: The Metro Flood Diversion Project was authorized for construction by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act.[3]


  • The Minnesota Department of Natural resources denies the permit required for a flood diversion project in the state.
  • The Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA) is formed.
  • The Joint Powers Agreement between North Dakota and Minnesota is created.

2022: The Metro Flood Diversion Project was started.

Red River after Grand Forks levee was overtopped in 1997.

2027: Expected completion of the Project.

Key Actors, Institutions, and Agreements[edit | edit source]

United States Army Corps of Engineers

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers[edit | edit source]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spearheads a unique Public-Private Partnership (P3) model, collaborating with the private sector to efficiently address the Midwest's flood risks.[4] This partnership brings expertise and funding and ensures the construction of levees, flood walls, and essential infrastructure.[5]

Public Private Partnership[edit | edit source]

A Public-Private Partnership (PPP) is a collaborative effort between government entities and private sector organizations to develop, finance, and manage public infrastructure or services. In the metro flood diversion project context, PPPs played a significant role in leveraging private sector expertise, resources, and innovation to address the region's flood risks effectively. By partnering with private entities, the project gained access to additional funding sources, accelerated project timelines, and enhanced technical capabilities. PPPs also facilitate sharing of risks and responsibilities between the public and private sectors, ensuring greater accountability and efficiency in project delivery. Moreover, PPPs enabled the metro flood diversion project to harness innovative financing mechanisms and management strategies, ultimately enhancing the project's resilience and sustainability in mitigating flood hazards for the Fargo-Moorhead community.

Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA)[edit | edit source]

the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA), formed in 2016, selected the Red River Valley Alliance to design, build, finance, operate, and maintain a 30-mile-long diversion channel crucial for managing floodwaters around the two cities.[6] The MFDA is tasked with ensuring safe and timely construction, land acquisition, and environmental permit compliance, while the Corps oversees the Southern Embankment and Associated Infrastructure construction.

Red River Valley Alliance[7][edit | edit source]

The Red River Valley Alliance includes members with responsibilities associated with the Diversion Project.

Guarantors[edit | edit source]

Responsible for the project's design, construction, financing, operation, and maintenance for 30 years post-construction:

  • Acconia S.A.
  • Shikun & Binui Ltd.
  • North American Energy Partners Inc.

Leaders[edit | edit source]

  • Acconia S.A.
  • Shikun & Binui Ltd.
  • North American Energy Partners Inc.
  • Red River Constructors

Expertise Contributors[edit | edit source]

  • Red River Valley Alliance Design
  • Hatch Associates Consultants Inc., and COWI North America Inc.

Subcontractors[edit | edit source]

  • Amec Foster Wheeler
  • Wenck Associates Inc.

Joint Powers Agreement[edit | edit source]

The Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) in the metro flood diversion project allows North Dakota and Minnesota to work together in the Fargo-Moorhead area to reach a common goal: reduce flooding and protect communities.[8] This agreement helps both states work together smoothly by setting clear rules for decision-making and resource sharing. It also simplifies handling legal and regulatory matters across state lines, saving time and effort. By working together, North Dakota and Minnesota can address shared challenges more effectively, ensuring better community protection against flooding. The Joint Powers Agreement further solidifies stakeholder collaboration, aiming to deliver permanent, reliable flood protection by 2027.[9]

Metro Flood Diversion Project Details[edit | edit source]

The Metro Flood Diversion Project has two main parts: a 30-mile-long channel to redirect surplus storm water flow around the metropolitan area and temporarily store it on vacant land (acquired by flowage easements) and the in-town levee project to modify 13 levees and 27 storm water lift stations. In addition, a 20-mile-long embankment, 19 highway bridges, three railroad bridges, three gated structures, and two aqueduct structures are being constructed.[10]

Rendering of the metro flood diversion channel.

Stormwater Diversion Channel[edit | edit source]

The Red River Valley Alliance is responsible for delivering the stormwater diversion channel for this project. The channel is 30 miles long and includes diversion outlets and aqueducts along the Sheyenne and Maple Rivers. In addition, there will be fourteen drainage inlets, three railroad crossings, two pairs of interstate crossings, and twelve county road crossings.[2]

Southern Embankment[edit | edit source]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for delivering the Southern Embankment portion of this project. The Southern Embankment is 22 miles long and has three gated control structures: the Diversion Inlet Structure, the Wild Rice River Structure, and the Red River Structure. Each structure will have a radial arm that allows gates to raise and lower for water control during the project. This portion of the Metro Flood Diversion Project also includes the I-29 Bridge crossing, 4-mile grade raise, and county and township road crossings.[2]

Mitigation Projects[edit | edit source]

The Metro Flood Diversion Authority and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will collaborate with local governments to accomplish various mitigation projects, with the USACE not directly involved in their delivery.[2] The upstream mitigation efforts will focus on safeguarding or relocating property structures and cemeteries, which will be acquired through flowage easements facilitated by the MFDA. Additionally, levees will be constructed in Oxbow-Hickson-Bakke and Christine, North Dakota, and Wolverton, Minnesota. Drain 27 in Oxbow, North Dakota, will be enhanced to protect a wetland area, while stream restoration will be carried out on the Lower Otter Trail River.

Cost, Financing Sources, and Funding[edit | edit source]

The Metro Flood Diversion Project incurred a total expenditure of $3.2 billion, with allocations as follows: $989 million for the construction of the channel under the Public-Private Partnership, $703 million allocated to the southern embankment project overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, $502 million designated for Lands and Impacted Property Mitigation, $266 million directed towards in-town levees, $250 million attributed to non-construction costs, and $44 million set for other mitigation construction endeavors.[10]

Various avenues of financing were utilized to support this extensive project. Notably, $273 million in Private Activity Bonds, including Tax-exempt Green Bonds, were secured through institutions such as Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Mikko Securities Indonesia, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. MetLife Investment Management contributed $197 million through Private Placement funds, while the Water Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act loans facilitated $643 million in Revolving Credit. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided an additional $437 million. Furthermore, communities demonstrated their commitment by voting to augment long-term sales taxes, ensuring sustained funding through a multi-generational Public-Private Partnership (P3) payment structure.[10]

Funding for the project came from federal, state, and local P3 channels. A substantial portion, amounting to $1 billion, was procured through voter-approved sales taxes extended until 2084, adhering to the P3 model. The State of Minnesota contributed $86 million, while the State of North Dakota allocated $870 million. At the federal level, a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) signed in 2016 secured $750 million towards the endeavor.[10]Technical Issues

Technical Issues[edit | edit source]

Land Acquisition[edit | edit source]

Land acquisition is critical to securing the space required to implement flood mitigation measures such as levees, channels, and infrastructure. The process consists of acquiring pieces of property from owners within the project area through negotiation, purchase agreements, and, when necessary, eminent domain. Land acquisition is undertaken to ensure adequate space for construction of flood protection and water flow management structures, which reduce flood risks and safeguard communities in the Fargo-Moorhead region.[11] The MFDA uses the following steps to acquire land for the project:

  1. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers design engineer flags land that is must be acquired for the project and notifies the MFDA director of lands and compliance and lands program manager.
  2. The MFDA Finance Committee reviews the property rights request and the project budget.
  3. Once approved, the MFDA Finance Committee issues a Land Acquisition Directive to The Cass County Joint Water Resource District (CCJWRD) in North Dakota or the Moorhead Clay County Joint Powers Authority (MCCJPA) in Minnesota.[12]
  4. Land agents contact the land owners to develop a contract. The contract could be for either a flowage easement or a total property acquisition.

Flowage Easements[edit | edit source]

Landowners receive payment from the MFDA for the right to periodically store floodwater on the landowner's property. The entities associated with the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA) will be responsible for acquiring flowage easements. The Cass County Joint Water Resource District (CCJWRD) will oversee the acquisition process in North Dakota. In Minnesota, the acquisition of easements will be managed by either the City of Moorhead, Clay County, or the Moorhead-Clay County Joint Powers Authority (MCCJPA).[11]

Property Acquisitions[edit | edit source]

Project engineers identify land parcels that the Fargo-Moorhead area will impact, and appraisals are scheduled for each parcel based on construction timelines. Appraisals are reported to Cass County Joint Water Resource District (CCJWRD) in North Dakota or the Moorhead-Clay County Joint Powers Authority (MCCJPA) in Minnesota. Based on the appraisal, an offer to purchase is made and serves as a basis for negotiations between land agents and landowners. After an agreement, a closing date is set where updated property rights are established, and the landowner is paid.

Crop Damage Programs[edit | edit source]

The MFDA offers comprehensive crop coverage insurance, ensuring that landowners will be protected in the event of flooding caused by the MFDA's activities. Under this coverage, landowners can claim compensation equivalent to the producer's yield multiplied by the crop insurance price. It is important to note that if a landowner receives payment from a federal crop insurance policy for a crop loss claim, it will be accounted for before the MFDA's supplemental crop loss program provides additional compensation. Even if federal crop insurance ceases, the MFDA remains bound by its obligations outlined in the Settlement Agreement, guaranteeing continued support to affected landowners.

Environmental Considerations[edit | edit source]

The Metro Flood Diversion Project is supported by environmental policies that minimize its ecological footprint and ensure sustainable development. These policies contain a variety of measures designed to protect and enhance biodiversity, water quality, and natural habitats within the project area. Environmental impact assessments evaluate potential effects on wildlife, wetlands, and other sensitive ecosystems, guiding the project's design and implementation to mitigate adverse impacts. Additionally, the project incorporates green infrastructure elements such as vegetative buffers, wetland and stream restoration, and erosion control measures to protect the floodplains and improve overall environmental resilience.[13] The project adheres to strict regulatory requirements and mitigation protocols, ensuring compliance with federal, state, and local environmental laws and standards.[14] By prioritizing environmental stewardship and conservation, the Metro Flood Diversion Project aims to balance flood risk reduction and ecological sustainability, safeguarding human communities and the natural environment for future generations.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Following the 1997 Red River Flood in the Fargo-Moorhead region, it became evident that decisive action was necessary to mitigate the threat of future flood events. As data analysts and scientists linked the floods to global climate change, it undersCorpsd the potential recurrence of similar catastrophic events. While addressing atmospheric impacts to curb climate change remains a priority, the States of North Dakota and Minnesota face limitations in altering natural processes such as snowfall, melting, and subsequent flooding during the spring thaw. The topography of the region also poses challenges, limiting extensive modifications. In response to these constraints, the Metro Flood Diversion Project emerges as a proactive solution to effectively manage flood risks and protect the Fargo-Moorhead area from recurring threats.

The necessity of the Metro Flood Diversion Project had widespread community support, notably as residents of the Fargo-Moorhead area voted to increase taxes until 2084 to contribute to its funding. This endorsement reflected the community's recognition of the project's critical importance in mitigating the devastating impacts of events like the 1997 flood, which imposed significant financial losses on the region and increased insurance rates. This grassroots initiative propelled the issue to higher levels of government, fostering collaboration between local, state, and federal entities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played a vital role at the state and federal levels, leveraging its expertise and resources to support the project's development and implementation. Through this multi-tiered collaboration, the Metro Flood Diversion Project emerged as a unified response to the pressing need for comprehensive flood protection, underscoring the effectiveness of intergovernmental cooperation in addressing complex regional challenges.

Lessons Learned / Key Takeaways[edit | edit source]

The 1997 Red River flood emphasized the significance of infrastructure resilience and the collaboration between state and federal government entities, local governments, and private engineering firms. Rainfall patterns in the midwest continued to increase after 1997; flooding in the midwest was inevitable due to the flat terrain and the northward flow to Canada. In addition, proper satellite data and rain gauges needed to be in place to predict and monitor rainfall intensity and distribution accurately. This combination of factors led to community stakeholders and the government utilizing various flood mitigation techniques to mitigate the effects of future flood events as best as possible.

The project progress was initially slow but gained momentum after the establishment of the Metro Flood Diversion Authority (MFDA). The MFDA brought together representatives from Fargo, Moorhead, and surrounding municipalities to coordinate efforts for flood mitigation and resilience. This unified approach ensured that diverse stakeholders worked together towards common goals, streamlining decision-making processes and enhancing overall project effectiveness. By establishing the MFDA, stakeholders from different political and administrative entities could align their efforts, resources, and priorities to address shared flood risks comprehensively.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

1.) How does the metro flood diversion project reflect broader trends in urban planning and infrastructure development, particularly in the context of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies?

2.) What is the role of government agencies and stakeholders in planning and executing the metro flood diversion project?

3.) What are the potential controversies surrounding the metro flood diversion project? Discuss concerns about property rights, environmental justice, and alternative flood mitigation approaches.

4.) What are the potential ethical concerns related to the metro flood diversion project, and why are they of concern? Are there competing societal interests in resource allocation and decision-making processes?

5.) North Dakota and Minnesota have been able to work together on this project to reach a common goal. Do you think Maryland and Virginia could ever do the same pertaining to bridges connecting the two states over the Potomac River?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b "1997 Flood Timeline | City of Grand Forks, ND". The Grand Forks, North Dakota. Retrieved March 5, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. a b c d "Project Components". Metro Flood Diversion Authority. 2024. Retrieved March 14, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "H.R.3080 - Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014". June 10, 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. Landers, Jay (August 26, 2021). "P3 improves US Army Corps' Midwest flood-diversion project". American Society of Civil Engineers. Retrieved March 10, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers PPA for the Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Project" (PDF). Metro Flood Diversion Authority. July 11, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "About | Metro Flood Diversion Authority". Metro Flood Diversion Authority. Retrieved March 10, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "Metro Flood Diversion Authority Selects Red River Valley Alliance as P3 Partner". PR Newswire. June 18, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. "Joint Powers Agreement" (PDF). Metro Flood Diversion Authority. June 1, 2016. Retrieved March 11, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. "Joint Powers Agreement: Metro Flood Diversion Authority" (PDF). Metro Flood Diversion Authority. June 1, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. a b c d "Fargo-Moorhead River Flood Diversion P3 Project, North Dakota". U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 10, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. a b "Land Management Frequently Asked Questions". Metro Flood Diversion Authority. 2024. Retrieved March 11, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "Land Acquisition Process and Schedule". Metro Flood Diversion Authority. 2024. Retrieved March 17, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Flood Risk Management Project: Draft Adaptive Management and Mitigation Plan" (PDF). Metro Flood Diversion Authority. November 1, 2021. Retrieved March 14, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Area Stormwater Diversion Channel Project". Environmental Protection Agency. 2024. Retrieved March 17, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Viet Cong Tunnel Network

[1][2][3]This casebook is a case study on The Viet Cong Tunnels by Kheira Bekkadja, Chloe Duncan, and Camille Fulton as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-005 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Spring 2024 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook. Under the instruction of Prof. Jonathan Gifford.


The Viet Cong Tunnels were created by Viet Minh soldiers trying to escape the French Colonization and expanded by Viet Cong soldiers in an attempt to better combat American soldiers during the Vietnam War. These tunnels were used to ambush and transport for the Viet Cong army. It is now a memorial in Ho Chi Minh City to the Vietnam War. Tunnels were dug mostly by hand. Americans tended to bomb from planes, so the Viet Cong went underground. These tunnels were extremely small, often only a few feet wide, and often dropped off or angled violently without warning. They were fortified to resist blasts from above, meaning it was difficult to destroy these tunnels, and the army within would survive the bombs. These tunnels contained hospitals, sleeping areas, and kitchens. There was even a tank found within these tunnels.[4]

Viet Cong Tunnel, 1969 (14918381925)

A United States Marine exploring the inside of a Viet Cong Tunnel network.

Notable Actors

French Indochina: Former French colonial territories in Southeast Asia. Established in 19th century Vietnam and later disestablished in 1954.

Viet Minh: An anti-colonial political group formed from the Indochinese Communist Party. Mainly comprised of North Vietnamese citizens and active during French colonial occupation.

Viet Cong: The primary militaristic force of North Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Responsible for the construction and planning of Viet Cong Tunnel Networks.

The United States Marine Corps: Responsible for Operation Cedar Falls and the partial deconstruction of Viet Cong Tunnel networks inside the Iron Triangle.[5]

Timeline of Events

Late 1940s: An early, rudimentary network of tunnels was formed during the First Indochina War, a war for independence fought between colonial France and Vietnam.

Vietcong tunnels-USAR

Example of Viet Cong Tunnel Network.

August 1954: Operation Passage to Freedom benchmarks a display of the United States’ opposition to rising communist ideas in Vietnam. This is not the first action taken by the United States to show opposition, but it did further the divide between the two nations and strengthened support for the Viet Cong.

Early 1960s: Increasing support for a communist Vietnam amid new independence provides aid in expanding the tunnel network.

January 1966-1969: Operation Cedar Falls begins carpet bombing by the United States military rendering tunnels unusable. “ [United States] Army Engineers explored, plotted, and destroyed over 10,900 yards of Viet Cong tunnels and tunnel complexes in the "Iron Triangle" of South Vietnam.”[6]

Operation Cedar Falls map

Map of Operation Cedar Falls.

Early 1968: Viet Cong forces reinfiltrated tunnels and prepared for the Tet Offensive.

1975: Tunnels are memorialized by the Vietnamese government and preserved within a memorial park network.

November 1994: Tunnels open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Funding and Financing

The Viet Cong tunnels are a unique piece of infrastructure as most of these tunnels did not require funding or financing. They were made entirely by hand by people who volunteered or were forced to dig the tunnels to assist the Viet Cong. This means that there were no funds allocated in a traditional sense, as all of the funding came from those who supported the Viet Cong and wanted to help dig the tunnels or were forced into digging the tunnels. This was free labor, the Viet Cong was able to make this huge network of tunnels without actually having to pay someone. The tunnels did not need much funding, as they were made simply by people digging through the dirt. While there were booby traps and other things to stop intruders, these were homemade and also did not require funding. The tools used to dig these tunnels had been acquired due to the pilfering of battle sites, meaning that these tools were not purchased or funded.[7]

Institutional Arrangements

  • The Viet Minh: an anti-colonial political group formed from the Indochinese Communist Party.
  • The Viet Cong

Narrative of the Case

The Viet Cong tunnels were created as a way to think outside the box when it came to war strategies. The Viet Cong knew that the army they were fighting against was not used to the terrain and thick jungle around them, so they created these tunnels as a way to better ambush the troops they were fighting against. This allowed the Viet Cong to have the element of surprise on their side and gave them an advantage as they could quickly escape without being noticed due to the fact they were traveling underground.[8]This proved challenging for the US army, as these tunnels gave their enemy an advantage. The US army attempted to destroy these tunnels many times, often unsuccessfully due to the dense nature of the soil in Vietnam, and eventually resorted to sending American troops into the tunnels to fight hand-to-hand with the Viet Cong soldiers they encountered.[9]These tunnels were extremely confusing and no set of tunnels were the same, making it extremely difficult for the US army to gain any headway against the Viet Cong. However, the US army was able to persevere and find other ways to combat the Viet Cong despite the challenges they were faced with by using chemicals such as Agent Orange and strong explosive devices to fight the Viet Cong soldiers in the tunnels. The takeaways from this experience should be that warfare is never easy and that thinking out of the box is necessary for victory. The Viet Cong’s creative approach to warfare made them a formidable enemy, and the US Army’s flexible and adaptive approaches made them a good challenger to the Viet Cong’s ideas.

Policy Issues

The Viet Cong tunnels, also known as the Cu Chi tunnels, were an extensive network of underground tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. These tunnels were crucial to the Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare tactics. In terms of infrastructure, the key policy issues included counterinsurgency- defined as any political or military action taken against the activities of guerrillas and military tactics.

These primitive constructions were incredibly important to the Viet Cong during the Vietnam war. The groundwork of the tunnels was laid by the Viet Minh while fighting France’s colonial control and was expanded upon by the Viet Cong. Inside, these tunnels stretched for miles and contained hospitals, ammunition and equipment stores, living areas, headquarters, and fighting positions.

The initial response of US officials upon encountering the Viet Cong tunnels was to employ a strategy reliant on sheer force to eradicate them. Operations such as Operation Crimp involved the deployment of thousands of troops to scour the jungles of Vietnam in search of these underground passages. Upon discovery, the tunnels were targeted for destruction through methods such as "crimping" with explosives or inundation with gas or water. However, it swiftly became apparent that these approaches were ineffective. In response to the overwhelming technological superiority of US and allied forces during the Vietnam Conflict, the Viet Cong devised a strategic policy centered on the development of an extensive network of subterranean tunnel complexes. These complexes, primarily concentrated in regions like Cu Chi but extending to the outskirts of Saigon, provided the Viet Cong with a tactical advantage, enabling them to launch ambushes against American forces before retreating into the safety of the tunnels. Over time, the tunnels evolved into sophisticated underground communities, featuring amenities such as armories, hospitals, mess halls, manufacturing centers, and storage facilities. Some tunnel systems extended for up to 40 miles, with the Cu Chi complex alone boasting an intricate network spanning 130 miles of passageways.[10]

While the Viet Cong's extensive network of underground tunnels indeed posed challenges to US and allied forces, it was not solely a response to their technological advantage. Instead, it was a strategic adaptation born out of necessity in the face of overwhelming firepower. The tunnels, primarily concentrated around Cu Chi but extending to the outskirts of Saigon, were not only used for ambushes but also served as vital logistical hubs and shelters for Viet Cong fighters.[11]

Reliance on tunnel warfare tied down significant resources and manpower for the Viet Cong. Constructing and maintaining such extensive tunnel networks required labor-intensive efforts and diverted resources away from other potentially more effective strategies. Additionally, the static nature of tunnel warfare limited the Viet Cong's ability to conduct large-scale offensives and seize and hold territory.


The Viet Cong tunnel infrastructure primarily pertains to the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War, which lasted from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, saw extensive use of guerrilla tactics by the Viet Cong, including the construction and utilization of underground tunnel networks. The Vietnam War revealed that in the face of technologically superior adversaries, innovative and adaptable tactics can provide significant advantages to insurgent forces. The Viet Cong's utilization of an extensive underground tunnel network, meticulously constructed and strategically deployed, showcased the effectiveness of unconventional warfare methods.

Discussion Questions

  1. Regarding infrastructure provision, which of the three transaction costs (coordination, information, strategic) were greatest for the Viet Cong Tunnels? How?
  2. If a group has the resources and the need, should they pursue tunnel warfare as an effective military strategy?
  3. Regarding infrastructure provision, which of the three types of transaction costs (coordination, information, strategic) were greatest for the Viet Cong tunnels?
  4. How did the Viet Cong's ability to maintain and utilize their extensive tunnel infrastructure despite sustained bombing and ground operations highlight their resilience and commitment to their cause during the Vietnam War?
  5. Considering the extensive network of tunnels utilized by the Viet Cong, what lessons can be drawn regarding the effectiveness of unconventional warfare tactics?


Long Bridge

This page is for a case study on the Long Bridge, created by Zhenxian Ji, Xintong Dai, and Dian Jing. It is part of the GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) class offered at George Mason University taught by Jonathon Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Long Bridge Project is a major infrastructure initiative aimed at expanding rail capacity across the Potomac River between Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The project involves constructing a new two-track railroad bridge adjacent to the existing Long Bridge, dating back to 1904. This will create a four-track rail corridor to alleviate severe congestion on the current two-track bridge operating at near full capacity.

The project has a long historical context, with previous bridges at this location serving various transportation modes like pedestrians, horses, carriages, and railroads since the early 19th century. The bridges played a strategic role during the Civil War. Over time, the current Long Bridge became devoted solely to railroad use.

Multiple government agencies at the federal and state levels are involved in this project through an institutional framework. Key players include the Federal Railroad Administration, District Department of Transportation, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Virginia agencies like the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and railroad operators like CSX and VRE.

Major policy issues revolve around minimizing community impacts from construction like noise, traffic disruptions on roads/trails, and temporary closures on the Potomac River. Extensive public outreach and mitigation measures like timing restrictions are planned. Environmental considerations focus on tree protection by adjusting staging areas, using protective fencing/arborists, preventing invasive species, and revegetating disturbed areas.

Funding comes from federal programs like the Intercity Passenger Rail Grant matched with state funds, with Virginia recently securing $729 million. The project aims for completion around 2030 to transform rail operations along the Eastern Seaboard by separating passenger and freight traffic.

Map of Location[edit | edit source]


Long Bridge spans the Potomac River, connecting Washington, D.C., to Arlington, Virginia, in the United States.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1809-1870: Pedestrians, horses, carriages, railroad[edit | edit source]

1808: Approval Granted

The Washington Bridge Company was authorized by regional commissioners and Congress in 1808 to shorten the distance of the nation's main mail route.[12]

1809: Completion and Opening

The bridge was completed and opened to traffic on May 20, 1809. It was a wooden pile structure with two spans spanning 5,000 feet, including abutments. The bridge was 36 feet wide with a spacious roadway of 29 feet in the center. The remaining portions were pedestrian walkways protected from the central traffic by railings.

1814-1818: The Battle of Bladensburg Led to Bridge Burnt

After the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814, the American forces retreated to Virginia using the bridge and burnt its southern end. The next day, British forces, upon entering Washington City, burnt the northern end of the bridge. Fortunately, the bridge was restored by 1818.

1831-1835: Washout and Repair

On February 22, 1831, high water levels and ice washed away several bridge spans. The following year, the U.S. Congress allocated funds for the restoration of the bridge. It wasn't until October 30, 1835, that the bridge was fully repaired and reopened.

The Long Bridge in 1861 seen from the Virginia shore

1861: Civil War and Military Significance- Fort Jackson was constructed to guard the bridge

On May 25, 1861, federal troops occupied and controlled the bridge, along with Alexandria and its railways. Fort Jackson was constructed to guard the bridge, preventing espionage and incursions from the Confederate States.  [13]

The outbreak of the Civil War and the secession of Virginia highlighted the military significance and strategic importance of the Long Bridge.

1864: Construction of the New Bridge- Railway Bridge

On July 23, a new and sturdier bridge, built by the Washington, Alexandria, and Georgetown Railroad Company, was completed.

1865: Bridge Span Breaks

On February 18, a U.S. military railway engine crossing the old bridge caused a bridge span to break due to its weight. Following this failure, the military deemed it easier and more crucial to occupy the new bridge and install railways on it rather than repairing the old bridge.

Consequently, railway traffic was diverted to the new bridge (Railway Bridge)

PS: Sometimes the two bridges, old and new, are collectively referred to as the Long Bridge and the Railway Bridge, or as two parts of a single "Long Bridge."

During the war, wounded Union soldiers were transported across the bridge to hospitals established throughout the city. The nearest one was the Armory Square Hospital, just a few blocks from the bridge, providing great convenience for treating the wounded.

1872–1904: Pedestrians, Horses, Vehicles, Railroad, Streetcars[edit | edit source]

1870: Flood

On October 1, a major flood struck, rendering the existing bridges irreparable as most of the embankments, wooden superstructures, and spans were washed away. The Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company (B&P) opted to construct a replacement bridge.

The replacement bridge opened to traffic in May 1872 and was used for both vehicular and streetcar passage. The new bridge had lanes for vehicles and railways, standing 9 feet above the water surface, with sturdy abutments made of blue granite.

However, despite the adoption of new designs, the bridge still suffered damage from freshwater, hindering river traffic and lacking width to accommodate two railway tracks.

1881-1895: Ice Flows Cause Damage

In 1881, ice flows damaged the bridge, causing three spans of the bridge to be washed away. On February 7, 1895, the Evening Star reported that ice floes were blocking the Potomac near the wharf, held back by the Long Bridge, effectively acting as a dam and creating conditions that could lead to flooding.

1904–Present: Railroad Only[edit | edit source]

The 1904 Long Bridge (as modified in 1942)

1904: Construction of the New Railway Bridge

In 1899, the B&P Company urged Congress to authorize the replacement of the Long Bridge, built in 1872, to accommodate multiple carriers and address freshwater issues. In 1901, a congressional act authorized the construction.

The new Railway Bridge was a Pratt through-truss swing bridge, opened in 1904. It wasn't until the 1980s that this railway bridge began to be referred to again by the old "Long Bridge" name. The old Long Bridge was dismantled by the end of 1907.

2011-2019: Renovation

In 2011, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) collaborated with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to restore or replace the Long Bridge. They identified insufficient carrying capacity and redundancy of the bridge and carried out repairs in 2016.

In 2019, the DDOT and FRA reported the need for a second bridge to meet the growing demand for passenger rail. They also proposed building a third bridge to create a new bicycle/pedestrian crossing.  

Long Bridge, Washington DC, Aerial, Looking NE in 2022

2020-2030-future: Expansion Plans

The Long Bridge has historically been one of the most severe bottlenecks in the national railway system, often operating at 98% capacity. Environmental impact statements and FRA decision records were released on September 4, 2020.[14] The approval cleared the way for the final engineering design, financing, and construction of the Long Bridge expansion.

Donald "DJ" Stadtler Jr., Executive Director of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, stated that the adequately funded Long Bridge expansion project is expected to be completed by 2030.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

The latest funding comes from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program, established under the bipartisan infrastructure law.  

By the end of 2023, Virginia announced that it had secured $729 million in federal funds to assist in covering the costs of expanding the Long Bridge over the Potomac River.[15] The expansion funds are aimed at alleviating railroad congestion issues. Governor Glenn Youngkin stated, "This project enhances the resilience of our supply chain, improves freight movements to and from our world-class ports, and promotes the local economy." The funding will not only construct a new Long Bridge but also extend a third track along the railway corridor. The additional track will further allow the separation of freight and passenger rail services.

The Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program:

This is a funding initiative managed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was established under the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 to provide funding for capital projects for intercity passenger rail.

The program provides matching federal funds, covering up to 80% of project costs, with the remaining 20% required from non-federal sources. Both Amtrak and individual states are eligible to apply for these competitive grants to invest in their intercity passenger rail services and infrastructure.[16]

The 80/20 rule

This 20% non-federal share can come from several channels:

1. Contributions from state and local governments

2. Investments from private investors or companies

3. Funds from railway operators (such as Amtrak)

4. Other public or private funding sources from non-federal governments

This funding model aims to encourage active participation from state governments, local governments, private enterprises, and other stakeholders in investing in the modernization of local railway infrastructure and upgrading intercity passenger rail services. Grant funds can be used for projects such as laying new tracks, improving grade crossings, purchasing new trains and locomotives, station enhancements, and implementing positive train control.

The 80/20 cost-sharing mechanism not only avoids complete reliance on federal funding but also provides crucial financial support from localities, aimed at expediting project progress and effectively integrating resources from all parties. By sharing costs and risks among multiple stakeholders, it enhances the efficiency of fund utilization and better drives the modernization of intercity passenger rail services.

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA): The FRA, in partnership with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), prepared the DEIS, demonstrating compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) among other regulations. The FRA is responsible for ensuring that the project adheres to federal environmental laws and regulations.

District Department of Transportation (DDOT): As the joint lead with FRA, DDOT has played a crucial role in the development and compliance of the project with environmental and transportation regulations. It acts as a co-sponsor and has been pivotal in managing and guiding the project through its phases.

Cooperating and Participating Agencies[edit | edit source]

Several agencies have been identified as cooperating with the project, providing jurisdictional authority or special expertise:

National Park Service (NPS): With jurisdiction over Federal Park property in the project area, NPS's decisions are critical to the project's compliance with environmental policies and practices.

National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC): As the federal government's central planning agency for the National Capital Region, NCPC has significant influence over federal projects within the district, including land transfers and alterations to federal property.

United States Coast Guard (USCG): Responsible for permitting bridge projects over navigable waterways, the USCG's role is crucial for any modifications or constructions affecting the Potomac River.

United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): With responsibility for impacts to rivers, streams, and wetlands, the USACE's permitting process is essential for the project's adherence to the Rivers and Harbors Act and the Clean Water Act.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA): Providing expertise on public transportation and potentially a source of funding, the FTA's involvement underscores the importance of integrating the Long Bridge Project with the broader transit system.

Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT): As the state agency overseeing rail and transit planning in Virginia, DRPT contributes funding and will be the project sponsor for the final design and construction phases.

Virginia Railway Express (VRE): As a commuter railroad agency operating on the existing bridge and a contributor to the project, VRE's involvement is key to ensuring that the project meets the needs of commuter rail services.[17]

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Early History and Evolution[edit | edit source]

The Long Bridge has served as a vital connection between Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., across the Potomac River since the early 19th century. Originally constructed to facilitate foot, horse, and stagecoach traffic, it has undergone several reconstructions to accommodate the growing transportation needs of the region. Notably, during the Civil War, the bridge's strategic importance was underscored as it witnessed significant military movements and underwent modifications to support rail traffic, signaling the bridge's evolving role in the region's transportation infrastructure.[18]

Long Bridge Back to 1809

The 20th Century Developments[edit | edit source]

The current Long Bridge was constructed in 1904, becoming the only railroad crossing over the Potomac River between the District and Virginia. Owned and operated by CSX Transportation (CSXT), it serves freight, Virginia Railway Express (VRE)for weekday commuting; and Amtrak for intercity passengers. Throughout the 20th century, the bridge underwent further modifications to address the challenges posed by floods and to support the increasing rail and vehicular traffic. A notable period of transition was marked by the rivalry between the B&O Railroad and The Pennsylvania Railroad, with the latter eventually gaining control and making significant upgrades to the bridge to handle the burgeoning traffic flow. This era also saw the construction of new bridge structures to replace the outdated ones, reflecting the ongoing efforts to modernize the transportation network in response to the capital city's growing demands.[19]

Addressing Contemporary Challenges[edit | edit source]

In 2013, there were 79 daily trains using the Long Bridge. The freight use is approximately 30 percent of that traffic or 23 trains, and the passenger and commuter rail make up approximately 70 percent or 56 trains.  The current Long Bridge Project aims to dramatically increase rail capacity over the Potomac River by constructing a new, two-track railroad bridge adjacent to the existing structure, thereby creating a four-track corridor. This project, spearheaded by the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, is a critical step towards alleviating the congestion that has plagued the existing two-track bridge, which is operating at nearly full capacity. The project not only focuses on expanding rail traffic capacity but also includes the construction of pedestrian bridges to enhance connectivity and accessibility, reflecting a comprehensive approach to transportation infrastructure development in the region.[20]

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Traffic And Community Impacts During Construction:[edit | edit source]

The Long Bridge Project, spearheaded by the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), presents a multifaceted policy challenge revolving around minimizing community disruptions while undertaking a crucial infrastructure endeavor. This endeavor aims to augment rail capacity and alleviate congestion between Arlington, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., ultimately enhancing regional connectivity and mobility. However, the construction process necessitates a delicate balancing act between project expediency and mitigating adverse impacts on the surrounding communities.[21]

A paramount policy issue lies in addressing noise pollution emanating from construction activities. The project team has committed to adhering to local ordinances that restrict excessively loud operations to daylight hours. Nonetheless, certain circumstances may warrant the acquisition of waivers to conduct limited night work, underscoring the need for a pragmatic approach that weighs project progress against potential disturbances.[22]

Another critical policy consideration involves minimizing disruptions to transportation networks and ensuring the seamless flow of vehicular, pedestrian, and cyclist traffic. The construction of bridges over major arteries, such as I-395, Maine Avenue SW, the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the Mount Vernon Trail, will necessitate temporary lane shifts, shoulder closures, and occasional brief full roadway closures. These measures, while unavoidable, will be meticulously planned and executed during off-peak and overnight hours, coupled with extensive public notification to minimize inconvenience.

Last but not least, the project team must address potential impacts on maritime navigation along the Potomac River. While temporary channel closures or detours are unavoidable during construction, the project's policy approach prioritizes adherence to U.S. Coast Guard regulations and the implementation of mitigation strategies, such as utilizing flaggers or designating auxiliary channels. Maintaining open lines of communication with mariners through various channels, including weekly notices and media outlets, is crucial to ensuring their safety and minimizing disruptions, particularly during peak river traffic periods.

Underpinning these policy considerations is VPRA's commitment to proactive community engagement and transparent communication. The authority has devised a comprehensive outreach strategy, leveraging various platforms, including flyers, social media, email alerts, newsletters, news stories, and pop-up events, to keep stakeholders informed about project-related impacts and mitigation measures.[23]

Environmental Considerations Regarding Tree Protection:[edit | edit source]

FRA and DDOT have exerted efforts to mitigate impacts on natural resources, particularly terrestrial vegetation, throughout the Project Development process. This has involved minimizing the Project's footprint as much as possible, considering existing infrastructure and constraints from landowners. One notable action taken was the removal of a culvert extension at Roaches Run, which was initially part of earlier draft plans. DRPT intends to persist in these efforts to minimize impacts on terrestrial vegetation as the Project progresses into subsequent phases, refining design, and construction details. Proposed measures for mitigation include:

Adjusting temporary access and staging areas during the final design phase to avoid disturbing trees and vegetation, ensuring that vehicles and materials are stored on vegetated surfaces only when necessary. Mandating the implementation of tree protection measures and measures to limit equipment access to adjacent forested areas through the use of protective fencing, overseen by a licensed arborist or other qualified professional approved by NPS. The arborist would also conduct necessary pruning to maximize tree survival during and after bridge construction, adhering to all NPS regulations, including timing restrictions.[24]

Requiring equipment washing before entering NPS lands to minimize the spread or introduction of invasive species. Ensuring that all introduced organic material, such as soil, mulch, and seed, is certified weed-free to prevent the spread or introduction of invasive species. Installing fencing, mulch, and planking to minimize injury and compaction when vegetated surfaces are the only viable option for staging near the Project. Reestablishing terrestrial vegetation removed for both permanent and temporary construction activities where feasible and in coordination with any reforestation requirements. Restoring areas to their pre-construction condition and appearance after construction completion, either through reseeding or replanting woody vegetation using native species.[25]

Key Lessons and Takeaways[edit | edit source]

1. Bridge construction needs to keep pace with the times to meet constantly changing transportation demands (pedestrians, horses, vehicles, railroads, streetcars).

2. Bridges have significant strategic value during wartime. During the Civil War, long bridges were used for military mobilization and became critical military strongholds.

3. Cooperation between the government and private enterprises is crucial for advancing large-scale infrastructure projects. The long bridge project involves federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as railway companies.

4. Mitigating the impact on communities during construction is a major policy consideration. Comprehensive mitigation measures need to be implemented, such as noise control, traffic maintenance, and protection of maritime activities, while enhancing communication with the public.

5. Environmental impact assessments and mitigation measures are indispensable. The project team has taken a series of measures to minimize impacts on vegetation and ecosystems, such as adjusting construction areas, protecting trees, and restoring vegetation.

6. Funding sources for infrastructure investment can be diversified. The project has received federal funding, as well as state government and private investments. Rational cost-sharing can accelerate project progress.

7. Large-scale projects require clear institutional arrangements and division of responsibilities. The project involves multiple federal, state, and local agencies, each with clear roles and responsibilities to ensure legal compliance.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. How can the Long Bridge Project effectively balance the need for infrastructure improvements while minimizing disruptions to local communities and the environment?
  2. How are the military and transportation values of a long bridge reflected in scenarios such as civil war, repelling invasions, defense against floods and ice flows, and alleviating pressure on modernized railways?
  3. How does the 80/20 cost-sharing mechanism in the Federal-State Partnership ensure adequate and reliable funding for long bridge projects, and do you think the massive federal funding is a positive or negative development?
  4. What challenges and opportunities does the Long Bridge Project present for the future of transportation infrastructure in the Washington, D.C., and Arlington, VA, areas?
  5. How is technological innovation being integrated into the design and construction of the Long Bridge to ensure its longevity and adaptability?
  6. What specific strategies or platforms could be employed to ensure inclusive and effective communication with diverse stakeholder groups, including residents, businesses, and commuters?

References[edit | edit source]

PJM Interconnection

Summary[edit | edit source]

The PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization (RTO), overseeing the operation of the power grid and wholesale electricity markets across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the United States. Although it initially served the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland region, earning PJM its name, it provides energy to 13 states today. It falls under the purview of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent regulatory agency under the Department of Energy. PJM stands as one of the largest and most intricate grid operators in North America.

Here's an overview of PJM:  

Origins and Development: PJM can be traced back to its inception in the 1920s as the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection (PNI), established to coordinate power transmission among utilities in these states. Over time, it expanded its scope to include utilities from additional states, eventually evolving into the PJM Interconnection in the 1980s.

Independent System Operator (ISO): PJM attained the distinction of being the first ISO in the United States in 1997, thereby segregating grid operation and management from generation ownership. This approach fosters competition and efficiency within the wholesale electricity markets.  

Wholesale Electricity Markets: PJM administers the world's largest wholesale electricity market, facilitating the trade of electricity among generators, transmission owners, and various market participants. These markets ensure the dependable and cost-effective provision of electricity to consumers.

Grid Administration: PJM oversees the management of the high-voltage transmission grid, guaranteeing the dependable and efficient transmission of electricity to millions of consumers within its jurisdiction. It coordinates transmission planning, maintenance, and operations to uphold grid reliability and stability.

Integration of Renewable Energy: PJM has taken a pioneering role in incorporating renewable energy sources like wind and solar into its grid. It has implemented market regulations and operational protocols to accommodate the intermittent nature of renewable generation while safeguarding grid reliability.

Challenges and Endeavors: PJM confronts a range of challenges, including evolving energy policies, technological advancements, and shifting market dynamics. It remains committed to addressing these challenges through initiatives such as market reforms, grid modernization efforts, and resilience planning.

In essence, PJM assumes a pivotal role in ensuring the dependable and efficient operation of the electric grid across a vast and diverse region. It facilitates competitive electricity markets while actively promoting the integration of clean and renewable energy resources.

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1927: The Federal Power Commission (FPC) authorized the formation of the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection (PNI), which later became PJM Interconnection.

1947: The PNI is officially formed as a voluntary association of Pennsylvania and New Jersey utilities to coordinate planning and operations.

1960s-1970s: The PNI expands its membership to include utilities from additional states, becoming the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection (PJMI).

1980s: PJMI continues to grow, encompassing utilities from Delaware and the District of Columbia, and changes its name to PJM Interconnection.

1997: PJM becomes the first independent system operator (ISO) in the United States, separating grid operation and management from generation ownership.

2000s: PJM implements various market reforms and introduces competitive wholesale electricity markets to promote efficiency and reliability.

2001: FERC designates PJM as an RTO.  

2002: PJM becomes the first fully functioning RTO in the United States.

2005: PJM launches the world's largest wholesale electricity market, encompassing a large portion of the eastern United States.

2010s: PJM continues to expand its footprint and enhance its grid management capabilities, integrating renewable energy resources and improving grid resilience.

2018: PJM initiates a stakeholder process to address challenges related to state-subsidized resources and their impact on competitive markets.

2020s: PJM faces ongoing challenges related to evolving energy policies, technological advancements, and changing market dynamics while striving to maintain grid reliability and affordability.

2024: PJM implements new market rules and operational procedures to address emerging challenges and ensure the efficient operation of the grid.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

Understanding PJM Interconnection, one of the largest power grid operators in the United States, necessitates an examination of its distinct organizational structure, revenue sources, and financial systems. PJM maintains a wholesale power market that serves portions of 13 states and the District of Columbia, managing the transportation of wholesale electricity in its region.

Membership Dues: PJM is a membership-based organization whose principal source of revenue is its member utilities. These utilities pay membership fees based on their peak load and market participation. These dues support operating expenses such as system maintenance, market operations, and administrative charges.

Market Revenue: PJM runs a variety of wholesale electricity markets, including energy, capacity, and related services. It generates revenue from market players such as power generators and suppliers by charging market fees, transaction charges, and penalties. These revenues significantly contribute to PJM's financial sustainability by funding operations and grid infrastructure investments.

Transmission finances: PJM derives money from its transmission services. It charges transmission prices to customers of its transmission system, which includes generators, utilities, and other market players. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates these tariffs, which are dependent on criteria such as transmission capacity utilization.

Grants and Federal Funding: PJM may be awarded grants and federal funds for specific initiatives aimed at improving grid dependability, resilience, and modernization. For example, federal entities such as the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may fund cybersecurity projects or grid enhancements. However, such funding typically accounts for a lesser fraction of PJM's total revenue than membership dues and market revenues.

Debt Financing: Similar to many large infrastructure corporations, PJM may use debt financing to fund capital investments in grid expansion, maintenance, and technology improvements. This could include issuing bonds or obtaining loans from financial organizations. Debt financing enables PJM to stretch the expense of big expenditures over time while using its steady revenue streams to fulfill debt commitments.

Investment Income: PJM may generate income by investing its financial reserves in interest-bearing instruments such as bonds, money market funds, or other low-risk assets. This investment income increases financial freedom and can augment incomes from other sources.

Institutional Arrangement - Oversight and Maintenance[edit | edit source]

Institutional Arrangements:

Regional Transmission Organization (RTO): PJM is an RTO that acts as an independent entity in charge of coordinating the functioning of the transmission grid and wholesale electricity markets within its jurisdiction. As an RTO, PJM is subject to a set of rules, protocols, and governance structures that assure fair and efficient market operations.

Stakeholder Governance: PJM's decision-making process includes input from a diverse group of stakeholders, including utilities, generators, consumers, and state regulators. This stakeholder governance model guarantees that multiple perspectives are taken into account when developing rules, laws, and market designs.

Regulatory Oversight: PJM is overseen by several regulatory organizations, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and state public utility commissioners. These regulatory bodies assess and approve PJM's tariffs, market rules, and other critical parts of its operations to ensure regulatory compliance and market efficiency.


Regulatory Oversight: The FERC and state PUCs monitor PJM's operations to maintain regulatory compliance and defend the interests of consumers and market participants. The FERC oversees wholesale electricity markets, while state PUCs are in charge of retail power markets and consumer protection.

Market Monitoring: The PJM has a market monitoring feature that detects and mitigates market manipulation, anticompetitive activity, and other inefficiencies. Market monitoring ensures the integrity and competitiveness of wholesale power markets within the PJM footprint.

Impartial Market Monitor (IMM): The PJM employs an Independent Market Monitor (IMM), who serves as an impartial watchdog over market operations and participant behavior. The IMM presents its findings and suggestions to PJM's stakeholders, FERC, and state regulatory bodies.


system Operations: PJM is in charge of the transmission system's day-to-day operations, which include grid reliability monitoring, grid congestion management, and grid repair coordination. PJM's grid operators guarantee that the electric system operates reliably and securely, responding to real-time changes in supply and demand.

Infrastructure Investments: PJM is in charge of overseeing grid infrastructure investments that aim to maintain and improve the reliability and resilience of the transmission system. These expenditures include modifications to transmission lines, substations, and other grid infrastructure to handle shifts in power demand and generation patterns.

Market Design and Rules: PJM constantly examines and modifies its market design and rules to reflect changing market conditions, technology improvements, and regulatory needs. This constant maintenance ensures that the PJM wholesale power markets are efficient, competitive, and resilient to interruptions.

In summary, the PJM Interconnection's institutional arrangements, oversight mechanisms, and maintenance practices are intended to ensure the consistent operation of the electric grid and wholesale electricity markets, promote market efficiency, and protect the interests of consumers and market participants.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

The PJM Interconnection case is multidimensional, with a focus on its establishment, operational processes, and regulatory monitoring. PJM, which began as the Pennsylvania-New Jersey Interconnection (PNI) in the early twentieth century, has grown into a critical regional transmission organization (RTO) that manages the power grid and wholesale electricity markets in 13 states across the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions of the United States.

At its core, PJM operates as an independent company separate from generator ownership, to ensure the transmission grid's reliability and promote competitive wholesale energy markets. Its construction required a joint effort among participating utilities, first from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with government grants and loans, ratepayer payments, and corporate investments.

Institutional systems at PJM include stakeholder governance, regulatory oversight, and market monitoring measures. Stakeholders, such as utilities, generators, consumers, and state regulators, actively participate in decision-making processes, ensuring that varied perspectives are taken into account when developing rules and operating markets. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and state public utility commissions (PUCs) regulate PJM's operations to protect market integrity and consumer interests.

The oversight of PJM includes day-to-day grid operations, infrastructure investments, and market design. Grid operators at PJM maintain grid stability, control congestion, and coordinate repair efforts to protect the electric system's security. Infrastructure investments are made to improve transmission assets and adapt to changing electricity demand and generating trends. Market designs and rules are constantly examined and revised to reflect changing market situations, technical improvements, and regulatory constraints.

PJM's market monitoring role, as well as the presence of an Independent Market Monitor (IMM), are critical to its operating efficiency. The IMM acts as a watchdog, detecting and reducing market manipulation and anticompetitive behavior while fostering market competitiveness and transparency.

Overall, the PJM Interconnection case demonstrates the value of collaborative governance, effective regulatory oversight, and proactive maintenance in ensuring the electric grid's reliability and promoting competitive wholesale electricity markets across a large and diverse region.

Key Issues[edit | edit source]

Several key issues affect the PJM Interconnection, ranging from operational challenges to regulatory and market-related concerns. Here are some of the key issues:

Capacity Market Reforms: The PJM capacity market, which assures there is enough generation capacity to satisfy future energy demand, has encountered considerable obstacles. Oversupply, subsidized resources distorting market prices, and FERC rulings on capacity market rules have all driven PJM to propose capacity market design improvements to retain dependability while addressing market distortion.

State Policies and Subsidized Resources: State policies, such as renewable energy mandates and clean energy subsidies, have resulted in an influx of subsidized resources into the PJM market. This influx may affect market prices and reduce the competitiveness of established generators, raising worries about market efficiency and reliability.

Grid Resilience and dependability: PJM has problems in ensuring grid resilience and dependability in the face of catastrophic weather events, cyber threats, and aging infrastructure. It is critical to ensure the grid can tolerate disturbances and recover promptly to provide consumers with a stable electricity supply.

Transmission Planning and Expansion: As the energy landscape changes with the incorporation of renewable energy resources, PJM must make significant transmission planning and expansion efforts to accommodate the altering generating mix. Identifying and investing in vital transmission infrastructure is critical for ensuring the consistent and efficient distribution of electricity across the PJM footprint.

Market Monitoring and Enforcement: PJM's market monitoring and enforcement processes are crucial to maintaining market integrity and competitiveness. Nonetheless, worries regarding market manipulation, anticompetitive activity, and enforcement efficacy remain. Improving market monitoring and enforcement procedures is critical for ensuring fair and transparent wholesale electricity markets.

Grid Modernization and Technological Integration: PJM must address the problems and opportunities that come with grid modernization and technological integration. Adopting innovative technology, such as sophisticated grid analytics, energy storage, and distributed energy resources, can improve grid flexibility, efficiency, and resilience. However, incorporating these technologies into PJM's operations necessitates overcoming regulatory, technical, and market challenges.

Environmental and Climate issues: PJM is under increasing pressure to incorporate environmental and climate issues into its operations and market design. Transitioning to greener energy sources, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting energy efficiency are critical for mitigating climate change and reaching sustainability targets. Balancing environmental aims with grid dependability, affordability, and market competitiveness is a major problem for PJM.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. How does the PJM Interconnection contribute to ensuring grid reliability and resilience across its 13-state footprint?
  2. What are the key challenges and opportunities associated with integrating renewable energy resources into PJM's grid?
  3. How do state policies and subsidies for clean energy resources impact PJM's wholesale electricity markets and grid operations?
  4. What role does PJM play in promoting market competitiveness and ensuring fair market outcomes for all participants?
  5. How does PJM address concerns relate to capacity market reforms and the potential impact on reliability and market efficiency?
  6. What strategies can PJM adopt to enhance grid modernization efforts and integrate advanced technologies for improved grid flexibility and efficiency?
  7. How does PJM collaborate with stakeholders, including utilities, regulators, and consumers, to address key issues and shape the future of the electric grid?
  8. What are the implications of evolving energy policies, technological advancements, and climate considerations for PJM's operations and market design?
  9. How does PJM balance environmental objectives, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with maintaining grid reliability and affordability?
  10. What lessons can other regional transmission organizations and grid operators learn from PJM's experiences and best practices?

Citations[edit | edit source]

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), "Wholesale Electricity Market Participation Agreement",

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), "Grid Modernization Initiative",

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience",

Mississippi River Locks and Dams

This page is for a case study on the Mississippi River Locks and Dams created by Kayla Byrd, Eric Johnson, and Gabby Wade. It is part of the GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) class offered at George Mason University taught by Jonathon Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Mississippi River Locks and Dams system is an integral part of United States Waterway Transportation that allows a manageable navigational channel. There are twenty-nine locks and dams spanning roughly 2,300 miles from Minnesota to Louisiana, serving various functions like navigation, flood control, and hydroelectric power generation.[26]

A lock, concerning waterway infrastructure, is a structure that allows maritime transportation to easily navigate along a river, despite differing water levels. When a boat or ship is needed to travel a waterway with higher elevation, it enters a passageway that entraps the watercraft. Water is then either added or removed from the passage to allow the vessel to either rise or fall to the needed elevation[27].

In order to provide a barrier to the active flow of water, contractors build a waterway structure called a dam. As aforementioned, the barricade can assist in blocking the flow of water to create a consistent water level, improving navigation for water vessels. Dams can be used in a multitude of functions, such as water supply, water storage, and can be used as a form of flood control.

Locks and Dams infrastructure plays a significant role in facilitating commerce, protecting downstream communities from floods, and supporting energy production and recreational activities.

Map of Locations[edit | edit source]

Map of Locks and Dams on Mississippi River

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1869: The US Army Core of Engineers had control of the Mississippi River called the Headwater Dams, a series of 6 dams that controls the flow of the river.
  • 1880: Funding from Congress approved to build three new dams.
  • 1881-1912: Headwater Dams were constructed
    • 1881: Lake Winnibigoshish located in Itasca County, Minnesota. Finished in 1884.
    • 1882: Leech Lake located in Cass County, Minnesota. Finished in 1884.
    • 1882: Pokegma Falls located in Itasca County, Minnesota. Finished in 1885.
    • 1884: Pine River dam located in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Finished in 1886
    • 1892: Sandy Lake Dam located near McGregor, Minnesota. Finished in 1895
    • 1912: Gull Lake Dam located in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Finished in 1912
  • 1930: Funding for the 9-foot channel was approved by Congress under the River and Harbors Act

Key Actors and Institutions[edit | edit source]

Key Actors and Institutions involved with the development and maintenance of Mississippi River Locks and Dams include:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:[edit | edit source]

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a federal agency operating within the Department of Defense (DOD). The USACE was established as a permanent branch in 1802, later becoming an agency that directly oversees environmental preservation and restoration. Their primary role is to supervise the construction and maintenance of the Mississippi River's twenty-five Locks and Dams. This authority was authorized by The River and Harbors Act, enacted in 1899, which places responsibility on the USACE to protect the Mississippi River infrastructure in the midst of renovation or development.[28]

Mississippi River Commission (MRC):[edit | edit source]

The Mississippi River Commission, established in 1879, is a federal agency and division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[29] This branch serves in an analyst position, directly analyzing the management and water resources within the Mississippi River Waterways. They serve as advisors to the USACE, Congress, and the Military, reporting on potential modifications that must be made based on their ongoing analysis of the watershed. The MRC is responsible for the advancement of the Mississippi River and Tributaries Project[30], which was authorized in 1928 after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which was the most devastating flood of its time. In order to combat the risk of unprecedented floods, a public works system was created that would reduce flood risk and provide more efficient navigation.

The MR&T Project has four main infrastructure developments:

- Levees and Dams

-Tributary Basin Improvements

-Channel Refinement


Navigation Industry and Stakeholders:[edit | edit source]

The Maritime Industry is a key actor in regards to the Mississippi River Locks and Dams as they have significant financial stakes and interests in the waterways. The Mississippi River waterway is a vital source of efficient movements of freight. The American Waterways Operators (AWO), founded and organized in 1944, is a main advocacy association on behalf of United States carriers and exporters. Water transportation plays a significant role in the establishment of United States commerce, providing an estimated $100 billion in financial output.[31]

Environmental Agencies and NGOs:[edit | edit source]

Environmental agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, have a key role in ensuring developments and suspensions of Mississippi River Infrastructure comply with environmental regulations and principles. The EPA has direct access to Congress and reports on the Restoration of the Mississippi River Waterway while contributing to the development of restoration strategies and programs. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), specifically focused on environmental preservation, also advocate and assess waterway projects to ensure those involved in the task are complying with environmental standards.[32][33]

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

The funding for the maintenance and operation of locks and dams on the Mississippi River is primarily paid for by the federal government of the United States. These critical infrastructure components are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees their upkeep and functionality. The financial resources required for the construction, ongoing maintenance, and daily operations of these locks and dams are derived from the federal budget.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is entrusted with the responsibility of managing and preserving the locks and dams along the Mississippi River to facilitate navigation, flood control, and related purposes.[34] The funding necessary to execute these tasks is allocated through federal appropriations, which encompass expenses such as the repair and replacement of aging infrastructure, dredging activities, and overall maintenance efforts.

In addition to federal appropriations, a portion of the funding may be generated from user fees, including charges imposed on commercial shipping entities that make use of the locks and dams. These fees, while serving as a financial resource to defray some of the associated maintenance and operational expenses, often fall short of covering the entire cost of these endeavors. It is noteworthy that the commercial traffic along the Mississippi River plays a smaller but substantial role in this funding scheme, contributing to the financial aspects of the inland waterway system.[35]

From the information provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) a “Percent tariff system” is used to set the rates for the shipping traffic on the river. The U.S. The Inland Waterway System regulates the system by setting the rates for the shipping traffic. This system of regulating tariffs comes from the “Bulk Grain and Grain Products Freight Tariff No. 7”, which was created by the Waterways Freight Bureau (WFB). In an intriguing historical development, this tariff system's relevance underwent a transformation in 1976. At that juncture, an agreement between the United States Department of Justice and the ICC rendered Tariff No. 7 obsolete. The barge industry still uses these tariffs as a reference point for rate units even though the WFB has ceased to exist and the ICC has changed into the Surface Transportation Board, which is now governed by the US Department of Transportation. To determine barge freight rates today, a percentage of the 1976 benchmark tariff per ton serves as the foundational unit, as outlined by the United States Department of Agriculture.[3] This system remains integral to the financial structure of the U.S. Inland Waterway System, bearing relevance to the overall funding framework.

The federal government plays a pivotal role in financing the construction, maintenance, and operation of locks and dams on the Mississippi River, ensuring their continued functionality for navigation, flood control, and related purposes.

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

Legal and Regulatory Frameworks:[edit | edit source]

The maintenance of the Mississippi River locks and dams is governed by a range of federal laws and regulations that ensure its continual prosperity and protection. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, for example, is the oldest environmental law in the United States. It specifically addresses United States' waterways, making it unlawful to eject or dispense debris into navigable channels.[36]

The Water Resources Development Act [37]and the Inland Waterways Revenue Act[38], both under the authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are used conjointly. The WRDA authorizes the study and construction of projects that can positively benefit the advancement of waterway infrastructure. The IWRA was established to finance and fund the development and improvement of national waterways. These laws outline the legal authority for the construction, operation, and maintenance of the infrastructure and establish the roles and responsibilities of various agencies.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

The First Lock and Dam:

In 1907 the First Lock and Dam added to the river was at Meeker Island (Originally known as Lock and Dam 2). Its main purpose was for it to be used to allow for easier travel from St. Paul up to Minneapolis. You can still visit it today at “Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Park” where it is a symbol of the economic rivalry of St. Paul with Minneapolis.[39]

The 9-Foot Channel Project:

Early 20th Century: The need for a deeper and more reliable channel on the Mississippi River was recognized as early as the late 19th century. However, it was in the early 20th century that serious discussions and planning began for a project to deepen the river's channel to a consistent 9-foot depth.[40]

1920s: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers became actively involved in the planning and execution of the project. Detailed surveys and engineering studies were conducted to determine the feasibility and the potential economic benefits of deepening the channel.

1930s: The 9-Foot Channel Project gained traction during the Great Depression as a way to stimulate economic activity and create jobs. Construction work on the project commenced in various sections of the river.

World War II Era: The project's progress was temporarily interrupted during World War II when resources were diverted to support the war effort.

Post-World War II: After the war, the project resumed, and substantial resources were allocated to its completion. Dredging, construction of locks and dams, and other infrastructure improvements continued.

1950s-1960s: The project reached a significant milestone with the completion of Lock and Dam 26 in Alton, Illinois, in the 1950s. This lock and dam system helped maintain the desired 9-foot channel depth by regulating water flow.

1970s-1980s: The project continued to progress, with further improvements and maintenance efforts along the Mississippi River to keep the channel at the desired depth. Environmental considerations and conservation efforts also gained importance during this period.

1990s-Present: The 9-Foot Channel Project remains an ongoing effort. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies continue to dredge and maintain the channel, repair and upgrade locks and dams, and address environmental concerns such as habitat preservation and water quality.

21st Century: The project has evolved to incorporate modern navigation technologies and environmental sustainability practices. It plays a crucial role in supporting commerce, transportation, and agriculture in the Mississippi River Basin.

Modern State of Project:

The Mississippi River continues to occupy a pivotal role in trade and commerce within the United States. As a major transportation artery, it facilitates the movement of a wide array of goods, including agricultural products, petroleum, chemicals, and manufactured goods. The river boasts a network of essential ports, with prominent hubs in cities like New Orleans, Baton Rouge, St. Louis, and Memphis, serving as critical nodes for both domestic and international trade. Notably, barge traffic remains a cost-effective and highly efficient method for transporting bulk commodities, and the river's infrastructure, mainly featuring the locks and dams, plays a crucial role in supporting this trade network.

Over the years, substantial improvements and ongoing maintenance efforts have been dedicated to the Mississippi River's infrastructure. The ongoing maintenance has been instrumental in ensuring a consistent navigable depth and regulating water flow, enhancing safety and efficiency for shipping and transportation. Modern navigation technologies have also been seamlessly integrated into the river's operations, further bolstering its role in facilitating commerce. Moreover, heightened environmental considerations have gained prominence, with various initiatives aimed at preserving habitats, improving water quality, and implementing sustainable river management practices.

It is important to recognize that the state of trade and commerce along the Mississippi River is subject to dynamic factors, including economic fluctuations, evolving infrastructure developments, and changing market dynamics. For the most up-to-date information on the river's modern trade activities and infrastructure, referring to recent reports and government sources is advisable to gain a comprehensive and accurate understanding of this crucial waterway's current status.

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

When the construction of the headwater dams was underway, the U.S. government ran into some issues because many reservoirs were located on Indigenous land. The government offered the Ojibwe nation $15,466.90 for their land but it was rejected. The government and the Ojibwe nation spend 5 years negotiating from 1881 to 1886 until they reached an agreement. By 1886, most tribes in the area moved to a reservation in Minnesota with the promise of funded land improvements. [41]

Upstream Northwest view of 9-foot channel

In 1928, Congress passed the Flood Control Act which called for the MRC to create a plan for flooding issues along the Mississippi River. The act included plans to strengthen existing levees and constructing a new spillway in Louisiana [42]. Around that time, there was also debates about whether or not the Mississippi River should be deepened to 6 or 9 feet to allow for more water based trade and increase travel up and down the river which would bring more money to the economy. To determine which one was more doable, Congress asked the Army Corps of Engineers to complete a feasibility study of the 9-foot channel.

Chief Engineer Charles Hall opposed the 9-foot channels stating it would have devastating environmental impacts, and there was no economic benefit. The public and the government officials were not happy about Hall’s reports and believed Hall’s duty was to engineering not to the environment.[43] Since there was not a lot of public support for his report, Hall decided that another survey should be completed to determine the costs of the channel in more detail. However, Hall was removed from his survey team before the final report went out.

Hall was not the only Chief Engineer to oppose the 9-foot channel. The next few Chief Engineers were also against the 9-foot channel however, by the time the second survey came out, it favored the construction of the 9-foot channel. The government continued to appoint Chief Engineers until they found one that was in support of the channel. In 1928, Major General Brown was appointed as Chief Engineer. He was in support of the channel, but did not agree with immediate construction until more survey work was done. This led channel supporters to turn to President Hoover to get support however, he also wanted to delay the construction of the channel until the Nation was in a more economically stable place since the Nation was in the Great Depression.

Despite many setbacks, supporters continued to fight for the funding of this project. The House of Representatives passed the River and Harbors Act in 1930 that did not provide funding for the 9-foot channel. So. supporters turned to their senators to have an amendment added to the act which would provide funding. By June 1930, the amendment was added and the project was officially authorized.

Looking at issues that the Mississippi River locks and dams in the present and future, maintenance and funding the biggest concerns. Dams have a typical lifespan of 50 years, so a lot of the dams built in the 1930's are quickly deteriorating. Since many dams are old they have eroded a lot over the years. However, they are dangerous and have an increased rate at failing. Environmental groups are concerned the US Army Corps is not taking these risks seriously and have financials incentives to do the bare minimum. [44]

Key Lessons/Takeaways[edit | edit source]

The Locks and Dams on the Mississippi River are an example of how engineers can be placed in the middle of doing what they feel is best for the public and doing the job that was given to them regardless of the outcome. Although the locks and dams are essential to trade and the economy today, the environmental impacts that chief engineers had in the 1930’s are still relevant today.

With many dams needing increased maintenance, the US Army Corps had the chance to reevaluate some of the same issues that came up when planning the 9-foot channel.  Environmentalists would like the US Army Corps to take public engagement, environmental impacts, safety and stability, and future infrastructure impacts into consideration when determining the future of the dams.[44]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. Can the restoration of land to indigenous communities be feasibly achieved by removing dams?
  2. What are the potential implications of privatizing dams as a means to generate more funding, particularly concerning river way transportation?
  3. What economic impacts can be anticipated from the removal of specific locks and dams?
  4. How is climate change influencing fluctuations in water elevation levels?
  5. What strategies can be implemented to promote the commercial expansion of primary riverways for general use, including considerations such as small and large locks and cost-efficiency?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Beckett, Jesse (2022-01-26). "Why the Viet Cong's Tunnels Were So Deadly And Highly Effective | War History Online". warhistoryonline. Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  2. "National Museum of the United States Army". Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  3. Gordon L. Rottman (2006). Vietcong and NVA Tunnels and Fortifications of the Vietnam War.
  4. "Cu Chi Tunnels - Facts, History & Length". HISTORY. 2019-06-10. Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  5. "Cu Chi Tunnels - Facts, History & Length". HISTORY. 2019-06-10. Retrieved 2024-03-24.
  6. Lehrer, Glenn H. (2016). "Viet Cong Tunnels". The Military Engineer. [108] ([703]): 60–63. ISSN 0026-3982.
  7. Gordon L. Rottman (2006). Vietcong and NVA Tunnels and Fortifications of the Vietnam War.
  8. Beckett, Jesse (2022-01-26). "Why the Viet Cong's Tunnels Were So Deadly And Highly Effective | War History Online". warhistoryonline. Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  9. Gordon L. Rottman (2006). Vietcong and NVA Tunnels and Fortifications of the Vietnam War.
  10. "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters > About > History > Historical Vignettes > Military Construction Combat > 062 - Viet Cong Tunnels". Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  11. "National Museum of the United States Army". Retrieved 2024-03-25.
  12. Cohen, Robert (March 10, 2024). "History of the Long Railroad Bridge Crossing Across the Potomac River". WASHINGTON DC CHAPTER National Railway Historical Society.
  13. Pfeiffer, David (March 12, 2024). "Working Magic with Cornstalks and Beanpoles-Records Relating to the U.S. Military Railroads During the Civil War". NATIONAL ARCHIVES.
  14. "FEIS, ROD issued for Long Bridge project". Mass Transit. March 9, 2024.
  15. "Virginia nets $729 million for Long Bridge expansion". Virgina Mercury. December 7, 2023.
  16. "Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program". United States Department of Transportation-Federal Railway Administration. March 7, 2024.
  17. "Long Bridge Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Section 4 (f) Evaluation Introduction" (PDF). September 17, 2019.
  18. Cohen, Robert. "History of the Long Railroad Bridge Crossing Across the Potomac River".
  19. "Long Bridge Study" (PDF).
  20. "VPRA Selects Construction Partners for Long Bridge-North Package & Franconia-Springfield Bypass Projects". December 6, 2023.
  21. "Long Bridge Project". Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
  22. "Long Bridge Project Frequently Asked Questions" (PDF). March 2024: 21. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. "Sign Up for VPRA Email Alerts". Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
  24. "Long Bridge Project Document Library". Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
  25. "Long Bridge Project Executive Summary" (PDF). September 2019: 25 – via U.S. Department of Transportation. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. Warhurst, Tyler (2020-06-22). "Locks and dams of the upper Mississippi River". Experience Mississippi River. Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  27. "Locks & the River" (PDF). US Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  28. "U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Headquarters > About > History > Brief History of the Corps > Introduction". Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  29. "Mississippi Valley Division > About > Mississippi River Commission (MRC)". Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  30. "Mississippi Valley Division > About > Mississippi River Commission (MRC) > Mississippi River & Tributaries Project (MR&T)". Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  31. "The American Waterways Operators". The American Waterways Operators. Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  32. "The Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB)". United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  33. Bloom, David (August 10, 2022). "Mississippi River Basin Restoration and Resilience Strategy" (PDF). United States Environmental Protection Agency.
  34. "Mississippi Valley Division > About > Mississippi River Commission (MRC)". Retrieved 2023-09-22.
  35. "Barge Dashboard". Retrieved 2023-09-22.
  36. McFarland, Charles K. (1966). "The Federal Government and Water Power, 1901-1913: A Legislative Study in the Nascence of Regulation". Land Economics. 42 (4): 441–452. doi:10.2307/3145402. ISSN 0023-7639.
  37. "Water Resources Development Act". Retrieved 2023-10-01.
  38. "The Inland Waterways Trust Fund" (PDF). Taxpayers for CommonSense. Retrieved October 1, 2023.
  39. Blvd, Mailing Address: 111 E. Kellogg; Paul, Suite 105 Saint; Us, MN 55101 Phone: 651-293-0200 This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center Contact. "Meeker Island Lock and Dam Historic Park - Mississippi National River & Recreation Area (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2023-09-22.
  40. "Gateways to Commerce: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 9-Foot Channel Project on the Upper Mississippi River (Table of Contents)". Retrieved 2023-09-22.
  41. Cooper, Phillip (2023-04-30). "Mississippi River Reservoir Dam System". MNopedia. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  42. "MRC History". US Army Core of Engineers. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  43. O'Brien, Yeater Rathbun, O'Bannon, William, Mary, Patrick (2008-02-01). "Gateways to Commerce". National Park Service. Retrieved 2023-09-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  44. a b O'Connor Toberman, Miller, Colleen, Maddie (2023-01-11). "5 key issues regarding the future of the locks and dams". Friends of the Mississippi River. Retrieved 2023-09-27.

5.9 GHz Spectrum

This casebook is a case study on the 5.9 GHz Spectrum by James Robles, Tristin McCreight, and Chelsey Stebbins as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-003 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The 5.9 GHz Spectrum is seen to be the next big step for innovation within the transportation industry, particularly in terms of C-V2X technology, which would allow for autonomous driving. However, the spectrum is also desirable for internet providers due to the low latency and high data transfer capabilities. These two competing infrastructure initiatives are fighting for control over the spectrum and both believe their initiatives have more importance than the other. In 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a decision to reallocate the lower 45 megahertz portion of the spectrum (5.850-5.895 GHz) to unlicensed users and Wi-Fi use. The decision for this allocation was due to automotive manufacturers inability to meaningfully deploy the spectrum and the potential economic benefits of granting further access. The upper 30 megahertz portion (5.895-5.925 GHz) remains for C-V2X deployment and improving vehicle safety.

The FCC played a major part with the decision to reallocate the 5.9 GHz Spectrum to optimize and effectively use the band. The DOT, supporting vehicle safety through C-V2X, and Telecommunication companies, supporting advancements in Wi-Fi capacity, both argue that they have better reasoning to have full access to the spectrum. For 20 plus years the 5.9 GHz spectrum was allocated to the auto safety industry with C-V2X, but now this sudden shift has sparked an ongoing discussion on auto safety and expanding Wi-Fi’s capacity.

Technology Terminology[edit | edit source]

C-V2X diagram

5.9 GHz Spectrum

The 5.9 GHz Spectrum is a dedicated bandwidth that ranges from 5.850 - 5.925 GHz.[1] This spectrum offers potential in low latency and high data transfer. This spectrum is favorable for both C-V2X opportunities in intelligent transportation, as well as improving Wi-Fi speed and reliability.


The 5.9 GHz Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) is a communications service that is primarily used in a short to medium range. This technology has low latency, high reliability, and is secure. DSRC is used primarily in public safety on the road by warning drivers of conditions or events ahead.[1]


Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) is a system that is meant for intelligent transportation systems and relies on a cellular connection to communicate with its surroundings.[2] The C-V2X uses the spectrum because of its low latency and high data transfer abilities. This system builds upon the DSRC system by adding the ability to connect to a cellular network to increase its transmission range.


Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) is a short range direct communications system that connects vehicle to vehicle, infrastructure, and pedestrian infrastructures. V2X doesn’t use a cellular network, which means it focuses on the immediate and local area with sensors.[3] Vehicles that can both recognize and communicate with these facets of transportation are considered to have a V2X communication.[4]


Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) is a communication system for vehicles to connect to the surrounding infrastructure, such as traffic lights or road signs.[4] V2I was an original component with DSRC[1] and is further expanded upon with this system. This system can be in both C-V2X and V2X systems, and play a major role for both to succeed.


Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) is a communication system that focuses on vehicle to vehicle communication and detection in real time. V2V has a larger presence in more modern vehicles with things like blind-spot detection and lane-change assistance,[4] which relies heavily on short range communication between vehicles.


Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P) is similar to V2V, in that it has the ability to recognize nearby pedestrians and implement safety measures to avoid fatalities and injuries. These measures are important for areas with pedestrian crossings and bike lanes.[4]


Vehicle-to-Network (V2N) is a technology system that gives a vehicle access to use cellular networks.[4] Car Wi-Fi is an example of this. It has the capabilities to have Wi-Fi, but it does not use it to communicate with other systems. V2N is a crucial component to C-V2X as it allows the vehicle to have its own Wi-Fi.[2]

Actors[edit | edit source]

FCC Logo

Federal Communications Commission

The FCC is the regulatory body for how frequencies are allocated and the rules governing them.[5] The FCC takes into consideration how the 5.9 GHz Band can best be utilized, whether it is for transportation or telecommunication.[6] A main concern for the FCC is that the spectrum is not overburdened, while still allowing users to benefit from its allocation as much as possible.[6] The FCC is designed to be an unbiased party for this issue, but is not immune from considering corporate interests and public opinion.

United States Department of Transportation seal

United States Department of Transportation

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for planning, coordinating, and regulating transportation projects across the country.[7] Part of their mission is to make roads safer and more accessible, by preventing crashes and congestion, which are costly. The DOT has been a long standing advocate for reserving the band for transportation in anticipation of emerging technologies, but lacked the ability and political will to take full advantage of it at the time of its initial allocation.[6] The DOT on federal, state, and local levels, continues to have a vested interest in retaining the spectrum solely for transportation, so that they can further implement intelligent transportation systems across the country.

Telecommunication Companies

Due to the sought out nature of the spectrum, telecommunication companies desire to use the spectrum as much as the FCC allows for Wi-Fi. The quality of the spectrum would surely enhance their services and improve telecommunication broadly. The opening of the lower portion of the spectrum is estimated enhance GDP by $23.042 billion and boost economic growth.[8] The telecommunication industry has rapidly utilized the lower portion of the spectrum. However, 6G band frequencies are also developing within the telecommunication space and  are likely to surpass the benefits of the 5.9GHz Band.[9] This raises the question of what other frequencies could be opened for unlicensed users as an alternative to the 5.9GHz Band.

Automotive Companies

Automotive companies have long wished to implement the new C-V2X technology, but development took longer than anticipated. Automotive brands are at varying stages of V2X technology within their vehicles. Features such as auto braking and lane assist are currently in the marketplace. This group fears that the reallocation of the 5.9GHz spectrum will leave it overcrowded, once companies begin to implement C-V2X. Moreover, automotive manufacturers are at odds with the FCC because of the poor regulatory framework that restricts further implementation of C-V2X, since the current framework applies to DSRC instead, which is now obsolete.[10] While this is an ongoing process, automotive companies continue to voice their concerns over reallocation of the spectrum.

Equipment Manufacturers

Companies such as Connex2x, Qualcomm, and P3 Mobility are currently working on projects that utilize C-V2X.[11][12][13] These companies are important because they are dedicated to developing and implementing new technology that can be sold to automotive manufacturers or used to their own benefit. These companies are key in technology development and are motivated by profit incentives. Companies vary on their stance on reallocation, depending on their industry. Regardless, equipment manufacturers are an essential component of intelligent transportation systems.

Interest Groups

Various interest groups have a stake in the issue as well. Organizations such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, and 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) advocate for the advancement of new transportation systems, many of which require the 5.9GHz band. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America, an interest group that promotes safe and sustainable transportation, sued the FCC for its reallocation of the spectrum.[14]  Even though the organization lost the case in district court, it demonstrates the lasting struggle between the government entities, private interests, and the public.

On the other side, interest groups such as Wi-Fi forward also lobby to promote more unlicensed Wi-Fi bands. They argue that opening up the 5.9 spectrum, as well as future bands, will buy economic growth, create jobs, and allow for more innovation within the industry.[15] Wi-Fi forward has a lot of political power and influence, backed by multinational corporations.[16]

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

  • December 18th, 1991 - Congress passes Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.
  • June 9th, 1998 - Congress passes Transportation Equity Act.
  • October 22nd, 1999 - FCC reserves the 5.9GHz spectrum for DSRC based transportation.
  • December 17th, 2003 - FCC creates updated regulatory framework.
  • January 31st, 2014 - Obama issues mandate to require automakers to implement C-V2X technology into their vehicles.[17]
  • August 24th, 2014 - The National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) released a report saying it would take 37 years to fully implement DSRC in all vehicles.[8]
  • November 1st, 2017 - Trump drops mandate requiring automakers to implement C-V2X into their vehicles after lobbying by automotive manufacturers.[18]
  • October 31st, 2018 - Under the testing with FCC and DOT it was found the Wi-Fi could share 5.9 GHz spectrum with DSRC.[8]
  • December 12th, 2019 - FCC adopted a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) unanimously in balancing the public interest in transportation safety and Wi-Fi by proposing the bottom 45 megahertz of 5.9 go towards Wi-Fi allocation and the upper 30 megahertz go towards vehicle safety.[8]
  • November 18th 2020 - FCC reallocates the lower 45 megahertz portion for non licensed users, including Wi-Fi.
  • August 12, 2022 - The case of Intelligent Transportation Society of America v. FCC is decided in favor of the FCC. This reaffirms FCC’s decision to reallocate the spectrum to unlicensed users.
  • August 16, 2023 - Joint waiver request submitted from automotive manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, and state departments of transportation to deploy C-V2X technology ahead of official updated frameworks.
  • April 24, 2023 - FCC approves joint waiver requests.[19]

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Connected Vehicle Locations - Planned and Operational Sites Using 5.9 GHz

As our highways and road infrastructure developed it became apparent that we needed to find innovative solutions to protect public safety. The 5.9 GHz Spectrum proved to have the right qualities for high speed traffic with its low latency and high bandwidth. However, the USDOT has made very little advancements in the intelligent transportation system since its initial allocation, other than the outdated DSRC technology. As other frequencies became crowded with unlicensed users, telecommunication companies saw the spectrum as a potential space for Wi-Fi expansion.

There are many barriers that limit C-V2X deployment within the transportation industry. One of the main issues is the inconsistent rates of which technology and policy develop. While some automakers are ready and eager to deploy their advancements in their vehicles, the FCC faced administrative hurdles that restricted further innovation. Another barrier is that any upgrades to current infrastructure requires some degree of financial commitment from either local, state, or the federal government. Moreover, without investment from the private sector, which includes both equipment manufacturers and automotive manufacturers, the technology cannot reach its full potential. With these barriers, those seeking to use the spectrum have a slower and more difficult time putting the band to use. Despite the FCC having the final say, various actors still remain frustrated with the current status of reallocation. Even though we have yet to see large successes, many projects are in development that might change the efficacy and status of the spectrum's use.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

Implementation of intelligent transportation systems, especially those involving C-V2X technology require investments from both private and public sources. Government entities such as the DOT receive appropriations from congress, which are then dispersed to separate projects.[20] For the 2024 budget the DOT requested $86.5 million for its High Priorities Activities Program (HPAP).[21] This funding is used to assist states and local governments with CMV safety and intelligent transportation systems.[21] These funds could help to advance and upgrade current technologies used within the 5.9 spectrum. State DOTs vary in how they get their funding, but are typically dependent on fuel taxes and transportation related fees, such as tolls.[22] This results in steady, but inconsistent funding, which was especially telling during the Covid-19 pandemic. Investments from government at the federal, state, and local levels, all help to upgrade current infrastructure components such as stop lights.

Funding from private companies also contribute to the development of intelligent transportation systems and utilization of the 5.9 GHz Spectrum. While most of this financing is undisclosed, it is likely they have a multiplicity of revenue sources. Qualcomm, for example, sells products for RSU and OBUs.[13] Other companies, such as P3 Mobility, are still in the growth stages and likely have loans or investment streams that help sustain them.[12] Investments from automakers are the most crucial to advancing technology, but they remain at different stages of development and implementation of C-V2X communication systems.

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

Currently, the FCC’s rules regarding transportation and the 5.9GHz band are based on DSRC, but are transitioning to apply to C-V2X. Since DSRC is not capable of the autonomous vehicle future we envision, it is imperative that these regulatory frameworks are malleable and updated soon. In the interim, the FCC issued waivers to a collection of state DOTs, automotive manufacturers, and equipment manufactures, in order to preemptively grant permission for them to begin C-V2X implementation.[19] For now, any entity requesting use of C-V2X must go through the FCC waiver process, until the FCC decides on a new regulatory framework.

The FCC when it comes to rule making follows the “notice and comment” rule making.[23] This means that when it comes to decide an issue they give the public notice on what they are planning to adopt  or modify and then seek comment from the public. After receiving comment from the public the FCC looks over the comments to develop the rules. The steps to this process starts with the foundation of the Administrative and Procedure Act (APA) which is the basic requirements for this process. Next up is the notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) which explains why there is a need for a rule change. This can also propose what the agency should consider when finding solutions. When NPRM is out there the FCC includes specific questions that they want public comment and data on. NPRM publication is the publication of the document into the Federal Register; this allows for public access through online and print media. The public comment period comes next which lasts for at least 30 days the more technical the matter the longer a period for public comment. The public can also ask for my time to comment by providing a clear reason. Depending on the case the amount of comments differ some receive thousands where others receive few. The public can also reply to each other’s comments. Next up is the peer review process, so if the subject contains scientific or social scientific information it should be peer-reviewed by a qualified specialist in the intended fields. This is to ensure quality in the final findings. After peer review a logical outgrowth test is conducted, under a court ruling if any changes are to be made in the final rule it has to be something the public can reasonably anticipate on. If the public cannot reasonably anticipate the change the FCC would be required to allow more public comment. Last up is the final rule publication which is published in the Federal Registration.

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

When the 5.9 GHz band was proposed in the 90s, it was intended to be used in V2V. This band was going to be used in DSRC which would help with “real-time safety-signaling” in emergency settings.[8] Now 20 plus years later the need for DSRC is outdated and expensive.

In 1991 the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act was passed by Congress which meant that the DOT had to research and test intelligent vehicle-highway systems. With this research it led to the development of DSRC which would help with communication between V2I. Because of the research DSRC was looked at as a way that could avoid different vehicle accidents on US’s roads. In 1998 congress passed the Transpiration Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998, which meant the FCC allocated 75 megahertz of 5.9 GHz band to be used for DSRC; it allocated 5850 to 5925 MHz to be a part of the band.[8] Now, the band has little to do with auto safety and DOT shelved proposals that would have required DSRC “radio systems” in cars.[8]  There have been advancements in safety technology for cars and the auto industry, but that does not involve 5.9 GHz bands. If DSRC was to be implemented today it would be pricey. The price alone to mandate the use of DSRC in all vehicles would be $5 billion a year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and by 2060 it would total around $108 billion.[8]

The different WiFi bands used and proposed in the US.

Under the Obama Administration, DOT wanted to mandate DSRC radios in every new vehicle due to without every car having DSRC the technology would not work meaning no vehicles could rely on it. This decision was ultimately reversed under the Trump Administration’s DOT due to cost, delays, and uncertainty, but DOT has not announced anything about the DSRC not moving forward in implementation. If every car was to be equipped with the technology according to a report done by the NHTSA released in 2014; it would take “…37 years before we would expect the technology to fully penetrate the fleet”.[8]

Now 20 years later this valuable band is deemed important for personal communication. 5.9 GHz is the gap between the current and the possible future for high-capacity Wi-Fi. In 2019 the FCC unanimously adopted a NPRM on the allocation of 5.9 GHz with the lower 45 megahertz going to Wi-Fi spectrum and the upper 30 megahertz for auto safety. The FCC adopted this proposal due to the fact that during these 20 years DSRC had yet to truly be implemented with the chairman acknowledging that, “…[I]t is hindering [the United States’] wireless future”.[8] The FCC chairman also acknowledge how little auto safety needs the 5.9GHz spectrum. The FCC started looking into using 5.9 GHz spectrum in the 2013 due to the congestions in 5 GHz spectrum. In 2018 the DOT and FCC after testing found that the 5.9 GHz spectrum that was being used for DSRC can be shared with Wi-Fi. The reason the FCC proposed allocating 30 megahertz to auto safety was because that is the standard in other places around the globe like the European Union.

Now 20 years later this valuable band is deemed important for personal communication. 5.9 GHz is the gap between the current and the possible future for high-capacity Wi-Fi. In 2019 the FCC unanimously adopted a notice of proposed rule making NPRM on the allocation of 5.9 GHz with the lower 45 megahertz going to Wi-Fi spectrum and the upper 30 megahertz for auto safety. The FCC adopted this proposal due to the fact that during these 20 years DSRC had yet to truly be implemented with the chairman acknowledging that, “…[I]t is hindering [the United States’] wireless future”.[8] The FCC chairman also acknowledged how little auto safety needs the 5.9GHz spectrum. The FCC started looking into using the spectrum in the 2013 due to the congestions in 5 GHz spectrum. In 2018 the DOT and FCC after testing found that the 5.9 GHz spectrum that was being used for DSRC can be shared with Wi-Fi. The FCC proposed allocating 30 megahertz to auto safety following the standard in other places around the globe like the European Union.

Lessons Learned[edit | edit source]

The 5.9 GHz Spectrum has only just recently become an issue, with the allocation of Wi-Fi into what used to be C-V2X only territory. The FCC’s decision for the lower 45 megahertz to be dedicated for Wi-Fi is very beneficial for the advancements and development of better services, as well as still giving the upper 30 megahertz for C-V2X development and improvement. Both argue that having complete access to the full range of the 5.9 GHz spectrum is necessary to have the most potential, as well as to keep the amount of traffic through the spectrum low and controlled. The results of this decision and the effectiveness of the allocation will be seen years from now. C-V2X will continue to develop and be implemented, but with half of the space originally owned. On the other hand, Wi-Fi’s new space in the 5.9 GHz spectrum is a much needed expansion that will act as the stepping stone needed for the next generation of Wi-Fi.

Overall the 20 plus year old debate and implementation of 5.9 GHz spectrum shows the inefficiency that surrounds bureaucracy’s red tape. Besides that, the slowness of bureaucracy impacted the accountability to the project stemming from the FCC’s decision on what the spectrum should be used for in 2020. In terms of adaptability, the spectrum has not been able to accommodate changes in technology and has stifled innovation from private companies hindering efforts to fully implement our intelligent transportation system. For intelligent transportation systems to truly be effective we must consider how to move past administrative hurdles and support new technological developments within the industry.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. Did the 5.9 GHz spectrum allocation issue start in 1998 with the initial 5.9 GHz allocation for transportation, or in 2020 with the FCC’s decision to reallocate for both WiFi and Transportation uses?
  2. Which would be better for society, Wi-Fi allocation or C-V2X technology?
  3. Given the policy issues, was there too much government oversight over the emergence of intelligent transportation systems and allocation of the frequency?
  4. Is there a solution where everyone is satisfied? If not, who should have priority?
  5. Should there be a mandate to implement C-V2X, similar to the Obama era mandate?

References[edit | edit source]

Texas Power Grid

This casebook is a case study on the Texas Power Grid by Seiry Vasquez, Hawwa Khan, and Trinity McDonald, as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Electric towers in Clay County, Texas

The Texas Power Grid is a electricity system that independently supports 90% of the electricity that currently sustains its residents and businesses alike. There are several parties that come together to ensure the functionality of this system that millions depend on everyday. Those involved in the system's upkeep also have the high responsibility of ensuring its success in the future.

The grid system is composed of many individual groups that work together to to allow the buying and selling of electricity through the grid. Generators produce the electricity, companies sell the power to families and businesses, and the transmission is handled by another subset who guarantee power is supplied to the correct places.

This power grid sustains the livelihood of millions of individuals and involves many actors, covers thousands of miles of the state of Texas, and is an essential aspect of the Texan economy. The power grid has taken decades to develop sustainably, to organize its funding, and the regulations for day to day rules have advanced to uphold this intricate power system.

List of Actors[edit | edit source]

There are many different actors involved in Texas's power grid. The following actors help us understand each party involved in the grids upkeep and what they do. [6]

Texas Electricity Legislation[6]

1992 Energy Policy Act:

  • This federal act introduced greater competition in the electricity sector, by lifting legal barriers in power generation markets. It offered the possibility for new power generators to acquire open access to transmission and distribution systems and to sell within region-wide markets. The passing of this Act was a first step towards establishing the conditions for future deregulation by states.

1995 Senate Bill 373:

  • This bill marked the beginning of the deregulation process in Texas. Senate Bill 373 required utilities in Texas to provide transmission service on a non-discriminatory basis, thereby allowing independent generators to compete in the wholesale electricity market. In 1996 the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) adopted the rules that would implement this bill, and established the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) as the independent systems operator of the Texas competitive wholesale electricity market.

1999 State Bill 7:

  • State Bill 7 continued the deregulation process, and called for the introduction of "Texas Choice" for electricity to begin in January 2002. SB 7 required investor-owned utilities within the ERCOT service area to separate their business activities into different companies for generation, transmission, and retail services. Independent retail electric providers were permitted to compete with former utilities to provide service to residential and small commercial customers throughout the state.
  • From 2002 to 2007 the newly-created retail electric providers associated with the former utilities were required to sell electricity at a mid-range price that was regulated by the PUC, known as the "price to beat". This was intended to promote customer switching and competition in the Texas retail electricity market, and was eliminated on January 1st, 2007.

Actors in the Electricity Generation & Wholesale Markets[6]

Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT)

  • ERCOT is the independent system operator for the ERCOT grid, which covers most of Texas (about 75% of Texas land area, and 90% of the state's power load), including more than 43,000 miles of transmission lines and 567 generation units. ERCOT's responsibilities can be separated into four main areas:
    Logo of Ercot[24]
  • It has four primary activities:
  1. Operating the wholesale market upon which power is bought and sold
  2. Ensuring open access to transmission within its territory
  3. Long-term planning for system reliability
  4. Administrating the retail switching process

Regulatory Agencies[6]

Public Utilities Commission (PUC):

  • Created by Texas legislature in 1975, the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC) is the state agency responsible for regulating Texas's electric transmission and distribution utilities. Along with regulating electric TDU rates, the PUC is also responsible for overseeing competitive markets and enforcing compliance for the competitive retail electricity market. The PUC is responsible for disseminating educational information and can assist customers to resolve disputes with their utility. It also operates an electricity price comparison platform that is available to all retail electric providers to list their offers.

Electricity Transmission & Distribution Utilities[6]

As electricity generation facilities are often located in areas far away from where it is consumed, electricity is transferred across high-voltage power lines before it reaches the distribution network. It then passes to lower voltage distribution lines before reaching its final point of consumption. Transmission & distribution facility owners in Texas are private, for-profit entities, but their rates and terms of service are regulated by the PUC.

There are five PUC-regulated utilities in Texas:

  • AEP Texas: AEP Texas (which stands for: American Electric Power) is an investor-owned electricity utility company based in Corpus Christi, Texas. As one of the big five T&D Utility companies, AEP Texas operates on the deregulated ERCOT grid. AEP Texas (AEP Texas North & AEP Texas Central) service area covers Corpus Christi, San Angelo, Victoria, and many more. AEP Texas works with more than 70 retail electric providers (REPs) to deliver electricity to Texans. The AEP Texas power outage map and AEP Texas customer service number is available for customers to report an outage and view restoration times. [6]
  • CenterPoint Energy: CenterPoint Energy is an investor-owned electricity utility company that is based in Houston, Texas. CenterPoint is one of the big five Transmission & Distribution Utility (TDU) companies operating in Texas on the deregulated ERCOT grid. CenterPoint Energy Houston works with over 70 different retail electric providers (REPs) to deliver electricity to Texans. CenterPoint Energy customer service is available to help residents with project development, a CenterPoint Energy outage or gas leak, and have a specific CenterPoint Energy phone number for each type of customer service enquiry. [6]
  • Oncor: Oncor Electric Delivery, often just referred to as Oncor, is a Texas investor-owned electricity utility company based in Dallas, Texas. Oncor, which is sometimes mistaken for EnCore Energy (not currently operating in Texas), is one of the big five Transmission & Distribution Utility (TDU) companies operating in Texas on the deregulated ERCOT grid. Oncor works with over 70 different retail electric providers (REPs) to power Texan homes and businesses. The Oncor customer service number is available to assist consumers with power outages or project development, and have a specific Oncor phone number for each type of customer service enquiry. New residents moving into an Oncor service area will likely not need to contact Oncor to start electricity service.[6]
  • Sharyland Utilities: Sharyland Utilities is an electric transmission utility company that is based in Texas and regulated by the Pubic Utility Commission of Texas. Sharyland Utilities has experienced major acquisitions in recent years, which shifted ownership of Sharyland electric infrastructure to Oncor Electric Delivery. Sharyland Utilities LLC exists today on a much smaller scale and is concentrated in the far south of Texas. [6]
  • Texas-New Mexico Power: Texas-New Mexico Power is a Texas investor-owned electric utility company based in Dallas, Texas. As one of the five major Utility companies, Texas-New Mexico Power operates on the deregulated ERCOT grid. Texas-New Mexico Power works with more than 70 retail electric providers (REPs) to deliver electricity across Texas. Swipe (or scroll) down to find the Texas-New Mexico Power service area for consumers and their customer service contact phone numbers. Find, below, a few Texas-New Mexico Power outage resources that include the Texas-New Mexico Power outage map and contact information to report a Texas-New Mexico Power outage. [6]

Electricity transmission & distribution utilities are responsible for maintaining and operating the transmission and local distribution lines. They start or stop electricity service, perform meter readings and are responsible for responding to emergencies such as power outages and downed lines.

Retail Electricity Providers[6]

  • Since 2002, Texans have had a choice of who provides their electricity. Retail electricity providers (REP) are responsible for providing electricity supply to consumers (residential, small commercial, or industrial), along with related customer service (billing, etc). In Texas, the retail electricity provider is the first point of contact for setting up a new account, or for questions about billing or electricity consumption (except for in an emergency such as a power outage, in which case the transmission & distribution utility should be contacted). You can find out more information about what's on offer in Texas in our retail electric provider profile pages.

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

  • 1800s: The first electric companies in the US were created. There were no federal regulations for the electric industry when it was new.[12] Utility companies throughout Texas were formed to generate electricity for ice plants. Those companies then began to sell their excess electricity to businesses and homes around their facility.[13]
  • 1924: Dallas-area Texas Power & Light Company built the first true interconnection in the state in 1924. In 1926, HL&P started building interconnections to sell excess power, and linked its network of transmission lines to the Gulf States Utilities system just east of Huffman, Texas, in 1927. [25]
  • 1930s: Electrification in Texas resembled electrification in many other parts of the country, apart from the regulatory relationships within the state.[1]
  • 1935: The Texas Interconnected system was created due to northern and southern Texas coming together to form one electricity transfer in the state. [26] However, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the Federal Power Act in 1935, which regulated any electric company with operations across state borders. To avoid regulation, Texas energy companies from that time decided to operate without interstate connections, and this continues today. [12]
  • 1941: The creation of the Texas Interconnected System was made, which allowed for any excess generation to be transferred to the Gulf Coast region.[13]
  • 1942: Most significantly for Texas power companies, the FPC issued an order that relieved utilities of federal regulation if they joined interstate interconnections for the purpose of providing electricity to the war industries.[1]
  • 1965: Came the worst power outage in U.S. history. While it didn’t impact Texas, it did prompt a national policy change: new federal regulations were introduced to ensure the reliability of the nation’s power grid.[13]
  • 1966: Electric Reliability Council of Texas(ERCOT) was appointed to facilitate the power flows and exchanges between emerging utilities and became the country’s first independent system operator, otherwise known as an ISO.[13]
  • 1970: The Electric reliability council of Texas was formed.[12] Texas utilities organized ERCOT in 1970 as part of a nationwide effort by power companies to address reliability concerns while protecting their relative autonomy from federal oversight.[27]
  • 1990s: Texas deregulates their electricity market which would allow more competition between electricity companies in which there main goal was to increase the efficiency and reduce consumer costs. [28] In 1999, the Senate Bill 7 was passed in Senate as this was a reform policy to improve the quality of the grids and along with the consumers satisfaction for the reliable energy resources they have.
  • 2000s: Many electricity failures shortly occurred after the time of deregulation and the passing of Senate Bill 7 as prices increased drastically and many blackouts occurred across the state.
  • 2010s: Winter storms occurred in Texas which resulted in blackouts caused by the Texas Power Grid which left 3.2 millions of homes without any electricity.[29]
  • February 2021: As Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc across Texas in February, pundits, politicians and the public reflected on the unique status of the state’s isolated electric power grid.[30] The electricity is provided by two sources natural gas and wind power. Natural gas is the main source and wind power is the second source. These sources aren't weatherized, which caused the disruption in 2021. In general, natural gas wells and wind turbines in Texas are not weatherized for the extreme cold. As a result, the 2021 winter storm disrupted the two largest electricity sources in the state.[12]
  • March 2021: Investigations into the incident reveal a combination of factors contributing to the grid failure, including insufficient winterization of power generation facilities, natural gas supply shortages, and equipment failures.
  • April: Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls for legislative action to reform and strengthen the state's power grid and energy infrastructure.
  • May 2021: The Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 1520, aimed at addressing the issues that led to the power grid failure and implementing reforms in ERCOT's governance and operations.[31]

Maps & Location[edit | edit source]

A map showing the locations of electric power grids in Texas and which sector controls them [32]

Texas Power Grid Location[33] The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) operates the electric grid for 75% of the state.

The Panhandle, South Plains, and the corner Northeast Texas fall under the Southwest Power Pool (SPP).

El Paso and the far West corner of Trans Pecos fall under the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC).

The Southeast corner of Texas falls under the Southeastern Electric Reliability Corporation (SERC).

(If map is has been taken down, please reference this link: here)

Map showing electric load zones by ERCOT in Texas[34]

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages close to 90% of Texas' electricity flows and payments. The electricity supply for more than 24 million Texan homes comes from 550 power stations connected across the Texas Power Grid.[35] ERCOT is funded by a System Administration fee of 55.5 cents per MWh (megawatt hour) to cover system costs. It costs an average 50-60 cents per month, around$7 per year, for an average residential home in Texas. [36]

As far as the entirety of the Texas Power Grid, most if it is operated by federal funding. The Texas division of Emergency Management will receive $60.6 million in 2023 from the federal government to aid in strengthening the infrastructure of the electricity grid. [8] These funds will help improve the grid to withstand extreme wether conditions and natural disasters, such as the power outage incident son February 15, 2021.

Funds are split up and used accordingly throughout different necessary tasks to ensure smooth operation of the grid and reinforce it. These funds will be put towards various programs that include trimming trees around power lines, improving equipment functions in extreme temperatures, and other infrastructure improvements. [8]The Department of Energy is planning on funding $2.3 billion over the next five years to address power grid resilience issues in many states, Texas being one of them.

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas is responsible for regulating billing and taxpayer funds in many sectors of Texas, one of them being the electricity bills and matters regarding the Power Grid. ERCOT and PUC work together, along with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to align federal proceedings and ensure efficient use of resources/funds. [37] Thus, the primary source of funding for the Power Grid is federal funding.

To date, approximately $173 million in funding has been allocated to Texas in 2022 for weatherization and $30.3 million to prevent outages and make the grid more resilient. An approximate $525 million has been allocated to Texas for infrastructure resilience in 2022. [38]

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

The flow of power that governs the Texas Power Grid currently follows a structure that is essentially a hierarchy, starting with the governor of the state, currently Greg Abbott, who has the power to select those in charge of running the system. Those that he appoints make up the Public Utility Commission, who from there regulate the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). ERCOT then is responsible for managing the power grid. The positions that make up the council then are in control of overseeing the day to to day operations.[19]

Because no one entity has complete control of the entire system, certain companies are responsible for producing power through electricity generators while others act as retail electric providers then sell the power to residents of Texas and businesses. Lastly transmission companies who direct that power are also compensated through customers' electricity bills. So, while ERCOT is a part of the regulation and decision making for the grid, there are many parties that are also able to influence the decision making surrounding the Texas Power grid.

The more specific day to day tasks which help to regulate the grid include:

Market Systems

  1. Market Administration: operates the efficient and fair wholesale of electricity between the generators of electricity and the providers who sell it.[39]
  2. Operations: responsible for the balancing of the grid system. At any given time electricity within the Texas Power grid is being created, used, and sold. This means ERCOT must continuously monitor the grid to be sure that stability is maintained while the demand is also met.[21]


  1. Upgrades and Planning: regularly ERCOT measures through assessments the potential need for additional transmission units and generators to meet and anticipate electricity demand. This means additional infrastructure has the potential to be added in the future to help further support the grid.[21]
  2. Emergency Management: like in the case of the 2021 grid disaster, ERCOT is responsible for doing all they can to ensure that grid failure does not occur. In the case that it does, ensuring that ERCOT is more prepared to respond to disaster.[19]
  3. Consumer Protections: additional legislation is currently in the works to offer additional protection for families and businesses, so that in the case of grid failure, residents still have the necessary tools to keep themselves safe.[19]

Narrative of Case[40][edit | edit source]

The Texas Power Grid was officially formalized in 1970 when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) was established to ensure the functionality of the electricity system throughout the state. This power grid is largely separate from the rest of the country making it unique in the way that it functions and upholds itself. The isolation of Texas’s power grid is due to many factors, largely the number of interested parties or companies that contribute to and profit from the system.

The term ‘grid’ is meant to reference the many miles of generating facilities and the transmission lines throughout the state of Texas that produce electricity and then ship it to vast distances to be utilized. This grid can deliver power to individual customers, be it a family of residents or independent businesses. The Texas power grid did not start very differently from the rest of the country as it adjusted to incorporating electricity into citizens’ everyday lives.

In the early days, (the 1880s- early 1900s) many companies operating at the time to upload and create the grid dealt with company mergers, takeovers, and bankruptcies as well as maintenance challenges, and frustrations working with the city government. Around World War II, two systems referred to as the North and South Texas Interconnected Systems were organized by power companies at the time to meet the needs of the defense industries. Over several decades (until the creation of ERCOT in 1970) the system grew and became a more connected and isolated system until it was known as the Texas Power Grid. The companies today that are responsible for selling, producing, and transferring electricity throughout Texas still have significant influence over the future of the power grid.

In 2021, the Texas Power Grid gained national attention when the power grid failed, in the wake of serious winter weather that Texas was not prepared to handle. The vulnerabilities of this system were well known by its regulators and Texas lawmakers who instead prioritized the profit of these large companies. This electricity failure resulted in thousands going without power. As a result  246 people would lose their lives due to going without heat for a number of days. An infrastructure system that supports millions was unable to sustain itself and support citizens. This has raised questions and concerns as to its functionality and ability to uphold itself, citing the need for repairs and upgrades across the board to ensure its success in the future.

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Following the deadly winter storm in February of 2021 that knocked out power for millions of citizens in Texas and hundreds of deaths, CPS Energy (the municipal electric utility serving San Antonio) came forward strongly in favor of ending Texas’ “solo” approach to its power grid. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is considering taking actions that could force Texas power grids and other states’ grids to connect with each other to reduce the chances of having a large-scale blackout again. The regulatory body has authority to set reliability standards for the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the grid. Texas is reluctant to take this drastic step of connecting their power grid with other states because they are concerned it will put them under more federal regulation. However, CPS Energy and others say that if they had the option to import power from other states in cases of emergency, like the storm in 2021, the power outages would not be as severe. They could not only prevent the effects of the 2021 power outage, but also increase revenue by selling excess power outside of Texas. According to ERCOT, Texas added more than 3,000 megawatts of solar and another 1,000 megawatts in wind generation, which results in plenty of surplus of energy. Power companies like CPS could sell this surplus of energy to others outside the state, while getting energy from them in times that they need it, which results in new revenue and a reduction of rates paid by customers. [4]

In Congress, lawmakers are working on policies that would result in expanding power grids and increasing interconnectivity among states. Senator John Hickenlooper and Representative Scott Peters introduce new legislation that would require all power grids nationwide to maintain interconnections with neighboring grids. This would mean Texas would construct transmission lines capable of delivering 25 gigawatts of electricity to Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico – which is enough power to supple 22 million homes. Initially, the legislation stipulated that FERC’s authority not be expanded over the state’s power grid but have changed the bill to make Texas’ participation voluntary. The issues with this idea of connecting the grids across the nation is that some of the neighboring states also do not have the energy capability to deliver power to Texas in a state of emergency/blackout. Thus, many are arguing that it is pointless to connect with local grids, when there is no guarantee that either one can deliver the energy needed in a time such as the 2021 blackout. [4]

Some of the proposed bills to the power grid: [41]

  • Senate Bill 6: This would direct the state to hire one company or more to build up to 10,000 megawatts of new gas-fueled power generation that can be activated during emergencies – a “backup” system. This would create state-backed, low-cost loan program to cover maintenance/modernization of current power generators.
  • Senate Bill 7: This would allow power generators to bid a day ahead of providing specific services separate from everyday energy market. So, generators that need four hours in time of need to provide power can turn on within two hours of being needed. This will also fix “market distortions” from federal tax credits what wind and solar power generators receive.
  • Senate Bill 2012: Incentivize companies to build more dispatchable power/keep existing dispatchable power online. It would also create a legislative oversight committee to oversee its implementation.
  • Senate Bill 1287: Require the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to set a cap for how much Texans pay for power producers to connects the state’s power grid and require companies to pick up the remaining cost. This will encourage companies to build new power plants close to their customers/existing infrastructure rather than picking the cheapest land.  

The biggest issue/reason why these bills, legislation, and policies have not been passed/implemented in highly based on Texas' cooperation. Texas does not want to increase federal regulation of the power grid because it decreases their reach across the power sector and their stake. Additionally, the biggest reason for these regulations is to prevent the events of February 2021 from happening again, however, many believe interconnections of grids among neighboring states is not the solution because most of the neighboring states do not have the capacity to provide power to Texas when needed and most suffer from power outages/lack of energy themselves.

Takeways[edit | edit source]

The Texas Power Grid is a prime example of the interconnectivity of infrastructure throughout a region. The grid expands throughout more than 90% of the state of Texas and is ever expanding in order to improve the flow of electricity throughout Texas. The system, in and of itself, is a relatively well functioning system, however, it is susceptible to extreme weather conditions, natural disasters, and the impacts of these conditions can be drastic to large regions of Texans, resulting in power outages across the state. Remaining knowledgeable about Texas’s power grid system is the key first step to ensuring its success in the future.The power grid, through its generating and transmission facilities produce electricity and ensure that Texas continues to function.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. When it comes to the Texas Power Grid and the money that is generated for various companies, does the interest big business out the customers needs and safety?
  2. In what ways does the function of the Texas Power Grid allow for a continuous flow of commerce?
  3. How could the Texas Power Grid improve its efficiency?
  4. How beneficial is it to connect power grids among neighboring states? Is it a viable solution?
  5. How can the production of power be improved within a state, as well as between connected state power grids?

References[edit | edit source]

Guangzhou South Railway Station

This Casebook contains a set of case studies developed by Jason Reyes, Syed Shah, Zachary Zalewski, and Mario Pineda-Diaz, students enrolled in the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future (CEIE 499: Special Topics in Civil Engineering / GOVT 490: Synthesis Seminar for Policy and Government) course taught at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering by Prof. Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Guangzhou Railway Station

The Guangzhou South Railway Station, also known as Guangzhou Nan Railway Station, stands as a colossal transportation hub located in the southern part of Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province in southern China. Serving as a key gateway to the high-speed rail network connecting major cities, it is a modern marvel of engineering and urban planning, reflecting the rapid development and urbanization of the region. This station not only embodies China's commitment to expanding and modernizing its transportation infrastructure but also plays a pivotal role in facilitating travel, trade, and cultural exchange, both within China and beyond.

The station's design and scale are truly impressive. It features expansive concourses, multiple structures, and a complex network of tracks, allowing it to handle a substantial volume of passengers and trains. What sets it apart is the architectural design that seamlessly merges contemporary aesthetics with traditional Chinese elements, creating a visually striking and culturally rich environment for travelers. Whether you are embarking on a high-speed rail journey to other major Chinese cities, immersing yourself in Guangzhou's vibrant culture, or simply passing through, the Guangzhou South Railway Station stands as a testament to China's commitment to modern transportation infrastructure. [42][43][44]

MAP/Location[edit | edit source]

Rail Connections to Station[edit | edit source]

High-Speed Rail[edit | edit source]

Beijing-Guangzhou High-speed Railway[19]

Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-speed Railway[19]

Guiyang-Guangzhou High-speed Railway[19]

Inter-City Rail[edit | edit source]

Nan-Guang Railway Intercity Railway[19]

Guangzhou-Zhuhai Intercity Railway[19]

Guanghui Intercity Railway (under construction)[45]

Guangzhou Metro[edit | edit source]

Metro Line 2[19]

Metro Line 7[19]

Metro Line 22[19]

Foshan Metro[edit | edit source]

Metro Line 2[46]

Station Layout[edit | edit source]

Floors of Station[edit | edit source]

3rd Floor - West drop-off area, entrance, security check, waiting hall, business lounge, and restaurants [8]

2nd Floor - Platforms, railway tracks, and east drop-off area[8]

1st Floor -Arrivals, exit, metro exit / entrance, ticket office, bus stop, taxi drop-off and pick-up, restaurants, and parking lot [8]

Base Floor - Metro line 2 and line 7 station[8]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 30 December 2004 – Construction commences
  • 30 January 2010 – Partial opening of the station with services north to Wuhan
  • 25 September 2010 – Metro station opened
  • 7 January 2011 – Services to Zhuhai North and Xinhui commences
  • 26 December 2011 – Service to Shenzhen North commences
  • 26 December 2012 – Service to Beijing West commences
  • 26 December 2014 – Services to Nanning East and Guiyang North commences
  • 30 December 2015 – Services to Futian commences
  • 23 September 2018 – Service to Hong Kong West Kowloon commences

Technical Data[edit | edit source]

Length / width / height:  450m / 400 m / 40 m[12]

Total area:   approx. 320,000 m²[12]

Area base-level: approx. 160,000 m²[12]

Area railway-level:  approx. 100,000 m²[12]

Area entrance- and access-level:   approx. 60,000 m²[12]

Roof area:    approx. 200,000 m²[12]

Roof span:   50 - 100 m[12]

Designed to accommodate 200,000 daily[12]

Finance[edit | edit source]

The total cost of the Guangzhou South Railway Station is ¥13 billion RMB or $1.8 billion USD.[47]

SPBs (Special-Purpose Bonds)[edit | edit source]

The primary way China finances its infrastructure projects including the Guangzhou South Railway Station is by issuing SPBs (Special-Purpose Bonds)[6]. SPBs (Special-Purpose Bonds) are bonds that local governments in China use to fund projects, especially infrastructure. The SPBs can only be used to finance the project that they were issued for. The Chinese State Railway Group Company, which is state owned, was also able to take out loans from state owned banks to finance the project. Land in China is controlled by the government therefore relocating people already living in the area of development is very cheap. The local government is also able to lease out the land around the station to gain more capital to further finance the project. By allowing local governments such as the province of Guangdong to take out bonds they are able to fund projects such as the Guangzhou South Railway Station to address the necessities of their province and region within China. [6]

The Chinese economy is heavily reliant on infrastructure construction therefore there are a lot of incentives for the construction of mega projects like the Guangzhou South Railway Station. [48]

Key Actors[edit | edit source]

The Guangzhou South Railway Station has many key actors; these entities are state owned companies that have rail lines that run through the Guangzhou South Railway Station and connect Guangzhou to the rest of the Pearl River Delta Metro Area as well as the rest of China.

Government of the People's Republic of China - One party government run by the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese Communist Party has the Ministry of Railways to oversee rail across the country. Owners of the state owned railway companies.

Chinese State Railway Group Company - The state owned company that is responsible for operating the railways system across the People’s Republic of China.

Guangzhou Metro Group Company - State owned company of mass rapid transit metro system that connects the city of Guangzhou.

Guangdong Intercity Railway Operation Company - State owned company that runs rails services across the Guangdong Province

Foshan Metro Group Company - State owned company that runs mass rapid transit metro system that connects the city of Foshan. [49]

Impact on Surrounding Area[edit | edit source]

The Guangzhou South Railway Station has allowed for Guangzhou to be one of the biggest transportation hubs in all of China. The Guangzhou South Railway station transformed much of the land around the station and has been developed to cater to passengers and businesses. The Guangzhou South Railway Station Business District has developed around the station which includes the construction of many modern and higher end offices and apartments. There is currently an emergence of schools and medical centers to cater to the influx of the new people around the station. Due to construction of the railway station.[50] This all has attracted a large influx of people with higher education into the areas around the rail station.[51]

Expansion Plans[edit | edit source]

There is currently construction being done in the Guangzhou South Railway Station. There is an interchange platform being created as an underground tunnel that connects Foshan Metro Line 2 platform and Guangzhou Metro Line 2 & 7. Currently, for passengers traveling between Foshan Metro and Guangzhou Metro , they need to exit the metro station and walk for about 400 meters, which takes over 10 minutes for interchange. Once completed, the interchange time would be shorten to less than 5 minutes. The former construction site will also be repurposed as a parking lot for taxi drivers.[52]

Another expansion plan has also already begun construction. The Guangzhou Railway Station to Guangzhou South Railway Station railway will be linked together by a new train line. Currently, there is no direct railway line connecting Guangzhou Railway Station to Guangzhou South Railway Station; passengers need to switch between the two stations using Guangzhou's subway system, bus or taxi. The construction of the rail link is estimated to take four years, with the anticipated launch of operations by late 2027.[53]

Pros and Cons[edit | edit source]

Pros[edit | edit source]

The introduction of the Guangzhou South Rail Station has aided China's strategy of spawning economic development along the Beijing-Guangzhou High-Speed Rail lane (hereafter BGHSR). Since 2012, a few months after the BGHSR line opened, the Polar-Orbiting Partnership (known locally as the Suomi-NPP) has been collecting Night-Time Light images of China using satellites. In a paper published in the Socio-Economic Planning Sciences journal, researchers from Wuhan University analyzed the Night-Time Light photographs using the Sum Light Values (SLV) method. SLV measures the light emitted at night on an image of a region over time . A higher concentration of lights per pixel on an image affirms active urban development in the region. [21]

The researchers from Wuhan University observed a rapid increase of approximately 50% SLV pixels per image in Guangzhou between 2012 and 2014. The researchers observed similar patterns of Night-Time Light growth along the BGHSR line with various Tier 1 cities in China—including Beijing, Wuhan, and Changsha—between 2012 and 2018. This rapid growth trend, however, did not continue in the lower-tier cities. Tier 2 and Tier 3 SLV data remained relatively muted between 2012 and 2018, suggesting that new transportation infrastructure projects (the BGHSR and the South Rail Station) in Guangzhou did not ripple the growth along to the lower tiers.[21]

Cons[edit | edit source]

Amidst the pros of the new Guangzhou South Rail Station, a potential negative externality of focusing on Tier 1 cities could be that large infrastructure projects in mega cities might leave lower-tier neighboring cities behind in the urban development race across China.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In summary, the Guangzhou South Railway Station is a transportation hub located in China. It showcases not only engineering and urban planning skills but also China's unwavering commitment, to improving its transportation infrastructure. This project successfully combines aesthetics with Chinese elements demonstrating the nation's dedication to progress while honoring its rich cultural heritage. The station's extensive network of rail connections plays a role in facilitating travel, trade, and cultural exchange not only within China but also on an international scale.

The financial strategies employed in the station's construction, such as issuing Special Purpose Bonds (SPBs) and utilizing state-owned loans highlight the government's belief in infrastructure as a catalyst for growth. In addition to its transportation significance, the Guangzhou South Railway Station has spurred the growth of a business district that attracts medical institutions. This development has contributed to raising standards and improving living conditions in the area.

Future expansion plans include building an interchange platform and establishing a railway link between Guangzhou Railway Station and Guangzhou South Railway Station. These initiatives underscore the station's role, in connecting cities and promoting growth. However, it is important to take into account the consequences, for cities nearby that could be overlooked as China focuses on urban development. To sum up, the Guangzhou South Railway Station represents progress. Showcases how infrastructure can drive growth and shape regions. This emphasizes the significance of considerate infrastructure development, in our world.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. How has the station adapted to the needs of travelers, such as providing amenities, services, and accessibility for people with disabilities?
  2. What are the challenges and opportunities in maintaining and upgrading Guangzhou South Railway Station to meet the growing demand for rail travel?

References[edit | edit source]

Jackson, MS Water and Wastewater Treatment

This casebook is a case study on Water and Wastewater Treatment in Jackson, MS by Aurozo Niaz, Alejandra Ortiz, Chloe Shade, and Scott Tatum, as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) perform initial assessments at O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant - September 2022

The provision of clean drinking water is one of the core duties of municipal government. Despite maintaining a fairly straightforward mandate, there are an array of obstacles that make fulfilling it challenging.

The Jackson, Mississippi water crisis of February 2021 serves as a pertinent case study in the intersection of extreme weather events, decaying infrastructure, environmental justice concerns, and institutional failures. The crisis was expedited by a severe winter storm, which unveiled the deficiencies of the city’s water infrastructure. These conditions were exacerbated by the city's aging water systems, distinguished by crumbling pipes and treatment facilities.[54]

Notably, the crisis disproportionately impacted communities that were predominantly Black, underscoring the racial disparities in infrastructure investment and disaster preparedness.[55] This preventable water crisis underscores the imperativeness of addressing infrastructure restoration, climate resilience, and environmental justice in historically segregated areas, with implications for public policy, equity, and the equitable distribution of essential resources.[56]

List of Actors[edit | edit source]

The United States Environmental Protection Agency: This agency is responsible for protecting the health of the environment and the health of humans. The EPA Administrator, Michael S. Regan, visited Jackson, Mississippi as a part of his Journey to Justice tour the year prior to the Jackson water crisis in August 2022. In a statement Regan published after meeting with Jackson Mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, he acknowledged that the people of Jackson have faced decades of injustices because they have not been protected and have not been provided with safe water nor a reliable water system. The city of Jackson had issued about “300 boil notices over the past two years and had multiple line breaks during the same timeframe” before the water crisis in 2022.[57]

Seal of the Environmental Protection Agency

Regan was aware of the poor quality and conditions of Jackson’s water systems and continued to advocate for the people of Jackson even before the 2022 water crisis. Now after the water crisis, the EPA along with the mayor of Jackson, work together to bring safe and reliable water to the people of Jackson.

Chokwe Antar Lumumba: He was the mayor of Jackson during the water crisis in August 2022.  He advocates for the people of Jackson and worked with the EPA to bring awareness to the poor quality of the water system infrastructure and unsafe drinking water in Jackson. Similarly, to the EPA, he believes that the people of Jackson and their need for a better water system infrastructure has been neglected because of racial inequality. As a democratic mayor in a state with a Republican majority , he faced challenges to get the necessary resources to address the infrastructure issues. [58]

Governor Tate Reeves: He is a Republican governor who assumed office in 2020. One of the factors that contributed to the failure of the Jackson water system was their unreliable billing system, so it was a challenge to collect payments. This meant there was little to no revenue coming int that could be used to repair/maintain the water system. This was a major contribution to the Jackson water crisis. In 2020, Reeves vetoed a bill that would have created payment plans for people to pay their overdue payments. This would have helped collect revenue to fund the maintenance/repair of the Jackson water system infrastructure.[8]

Seal of FEMA

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): FEMA comes to Jackson to provide financial assistance, technical assistance, and to distribute other resources, such as water bottles. Because President declares a 90-day state of emergency for the city of Jackson, it authorizes the use of federal funds to cover 75% of costs related to the water crisis emergency.[8]

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA): MEMA worked in partnership with FEMA to help the people of Jackson, MS during the water crisis. The Public Assistance program was run by MEMA, so people applied through their application for resources and financial assistance. FEMA covered 75% while MEMA covered the other 25%.

Timeline of Events[8][edit | edit source]

  • 1914:
    • Fewell Plant is built and still operates today.
  • 1963:
    • Construction ends for the Ross Barnett Reservoir, Jackson’s largest source of drinking water. When the reservoir gets too high, though, water discharges into the Pearl River, which flows through Jackson.
  • 1970s:
    • White flight: More than 11,000 white families leave Jackson to avoid integrated schools.
    • White Jackson families pull 5,000 children from local schools in 1970.
  • 1985:
    • Jackson prepares its original Water Master Plan, outlining recommended maintenance and repairs for its water infrastructure. The plan will be updated in 1997 and again in 2012.
  • 1993:
    • O.B. Curtis Plant, the city’s primary water plant, is built near the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
  • 2010:
    • A storm causes hundreds of water mains to burst, leaving residents without water for weeks.
  • 2012:
    • An American Water Works Association journal finds Jackson’s pipeline repair needs are more than nine times higher than the national average for similarly sized systems.
    • Jackson is put under a federal consent decree for violating the Clean Water Act.
  • 2013:
    • The Jackson Master Plan is updated to reflect nearly $600 million in needed infrastructure updates and repairs.
    • More than 112 miles of water pipes are still unlined cast iron. In many cases, the eroding pipes are a century old.
    • Unaccounted-for water has increased from 19% in 1985 to 26% in 2012.
    • More than 97 miles of water mains running beneath Jackson are less than 6 inches in diameter, causing more than 40% of all water main breaks.
  • 2014:
    • A winter storm results in water outages.
  • 2018:
    • Another freeze causes pipes to burst and leaves residents without water.
  • 2019:
    • More than 3 billion gallons of sewage is released into the Pearl River. Jackson residents are told to avoid water contact activities such as swimming, wading, and fishing.
  • 2020:
    • Record rainfall in the first three months overflows the city’s sewage system and dumps nearly a half-billion gallons of raw sewage and 5.7 billion gallons of minimally treated sewage into the Pearl River.
    • An EPA report finds that Jackson’s water distribution system has numerous leaks and line breaks, with crews reportedly repairing five or six each day.
    • In June, Gov. Tate Reeves vetoes a bipartisan bill that would have helped Jackson use a flexible payment plans system to collect overdue payments and fund the water system.
  • 2021:
    • A storm in February leaves Jackson residents with no drinking water for a month.
    • On March 3, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba writes to Governor Reeves, outlining the city’s urgent need for $47 million for immediate repairs and improvements.
    • In May, Mississippi receives the first half of $1.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act for pandemic-related expenses and for water, sewer, and broadband.
  • 2022:
    • In April, the state Legislature votes to allow cities such as Jackson to apply for funding for water and sewer projects with a one-to-one match using their own direct ARPA funds.
    • On Aug. 29, floodwaters from the Ross Barnett Reservoir and Pearl River overwhelm Jackson’s primary water treatment plant, causing plant system failure and leaving 153,000 residents without potable drinking water and/or water pressure to flush toilets.
    • On Aug. 30, President Biden declares a 90-day state of emergency, authorizing federal funds to cover 75% of all costs related to the emergency.
    • On Nov. 4, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality awards Jackson $35.6 million, which the city matches for a total of $71 million.
    • On Nov. 29, the U.S. Department of Justice files a complaint against Jackson alleging failure to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  • 2023:
    • In May, Henifin says Jackson doesn’t have the money to pay costs until more federal funds arrive.
    • On May 2, the SPLC files a complaint with the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Civil Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity regarding discrimination in the allocation and disbursement of millions of federal dollars Mississippi received from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Two Treatment Plans[edit | edit source]

Image of Jackson, MS with the Ross Barnett Reservoir to the North

Two principal plants supplied Jackson, Mississippi with its water supply: the J. H. Fewell plant built in 1914 and the O. B. Curtis plant built in 1993. Together these plants provided drinking water to a total of around 250,000 people in and around Jackson.[59] While both plants service the same region, they drew from different sources. While the Fewell plant treated water coming from the Pearl river, the Curtis plant treated the water within the Ross Barnett Reservoir.

Years of Neglect[edit | edit source]

In 2012, the EPA ruled that the city of Jackson had violated the Clean Water Act via the leakage and overflow of untreated raw sewage into the water supply. In addition to this, there were a number of unauthorized bypasses within the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment Plant which contributed to the injunction.[6]

Mandated by the injunction to improve maintenance, city officials were limited in funding and finances by the state government.[60] This contributed to a gradual degradation of Jackson's water infrastructure over the decade, as vital repairs went underfunded and contributed to the crisis that began in 2022.

2022 Water Crisis (August - November 2022)[edit | edit source]

Following historic rainfall which flooded the Pearl River, the Curtis plant was overwhelmed with excess water from the Ross Barnett Reservoir.[61] Already relying on backup pumps due to previous damage, city officials altered the treatment method at the plant, resulting in a decrease in water pressure and quality.[62]

A state of emergency was declared, with most of Jackson's citizens lacking water in the immediate aftermath of the plant's failure. Similar breakdowns at the Fewell plant contributed to the crisis. A boil water notice went into effect for the city, straining the resources of local hospitals.[63] While the systems were mostly restored by September 4th, concerns remained over water quality and potential lead poisoning.[64] Eventually, however, the boil advisory was revoked for Jackson on September 14th and the EPA declared the water safe to drink later in late October.[65][66]

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

The Jackson, MS water system infrastructure is funded by the people of Jackson, who are the recipients of the services. The water system is a utility, so residents and businesses who use its services have to pay the fees/bill. This is the water systems main source of revenue, so without it, it makes it difficult to maintain and improve the water system infrastructure.

Jackson, MS struggled to collect monthly payments from its residents because of an unreliable billing system and residents not being able to make their monthly payments. All of this contributed to the failure of the water system because without that revenue, the city did not have the financial resources that were needed to address the issues of the water system.

When President Biden declared a state of emergency in Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson was granted federal funds to assist with the crisis. The funds would cover up to 75% of all emergency related costs.

Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) “awards Jackson $35.6 million, which the city matches for a total of $71 million”[8]

In June 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Jackson, Mississippi will receive $115 million in funding to support water infrastructure that will ensure safe and reliable drinking water for residents. The funding comes from Congressional appropriations for the 2023 federal budget. The Biden-Harris administration are advocates for Jackson, MS to receive this funding to ensure residents have access to clean, safe drinking water.[67]

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

A municipality's water supply and related services are usually managed by several important institutions and entities. Their contributions to the crisis emerged from several factors, including budget decisions, infrastructure management, regulatory oversight, and emergency preparedness. In tandem, these agencies strive to ensure that communities have access to a dependable and safe supply of water. Municipal water systems are often managed by the following institutions, albeit specific arrangements may differ from one municipality to the next:

The management and operation of the water system were under the jurisdiction of the Jackson Department of Public Works and its water division. Challenges with these organizational structures, particularly inadequate financing, and staffing shortages, made it increasingly difficult for the agency to effectively manage and mitigate the issue. Regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels, including O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), establish water quality standards and monitor adherence.

A separate sanitary sewer system is operated and owned by the City of Jackson, Mississippi. Savanna Street, Presidential Hills, and Trahon wastewater treatment plants, as well as a wastewater collection and transmission system, constitute a component of Jackson's system. Jackson violated the terms of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and Section 301 of the Clean Water Act.[6] A total of over 2,300 sanitary sewer overflows, forbidden bypasses, malfunctions in operation and maintenance, and effluent limit violations account for Jackson's alleged offenses.[6]

Determining water quality standards as well as ensuring that local, state, and federal laws are complied with are the responsibilities of the MDEQ and the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant. In an effort to manage the emergency during the water crisis, the MDEQ collaborated with local authorities. They provided guidance and issued advisories, such as boil-water advisories, to safeguard the public's health. They assisted in organizing the emergency response efforts to make certain the residents were conscious of the situation. [6] The MDEQ's response amid the crisis, as described by critics, was not as immediate as it deserved to be. The MDEQ, municipalities, and residents were not corresponding properly or effectively, which raised concerns. To prevent or mitigate similar crises in the future, the incident emphasizes the significance of extensive infrastructure investment, regulatory oversight, and efficient emergency response at the state level.

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Privatization[68][69][edit | edit source]

In response to the failures Jackson's wastewater treatment system, Governor Reeves floated the idea of privatizing the plants currently operated by the city government. This plan, however, has encountered opposition from city officials who fear the plan could increase costs. Proponents have countered by asserting the increased costs would result in greater quality service from the treatment plants.

Lead Pipes[70][edit | edit source]

Lead pipes have come into focus as well as a continuing factor in Jackson's water security. Many residents fear lead contamination in the wake of the crisis. Already, 1,800 lawsuits have been filed against city and state officials for lead water contamination.

Lessons and Takeaways[edit | edit source]

Neglecting Water Infrastructure Can Have Dire Consequences for Communities, Particularly Those with Limited Resources:[edit | edit source]

Neglecting water infrastructure, as illuminated by the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis, can have profound repercussions for communities, especially those already grappling with limited resources. This case underscores the essential, albeit often overlooked, role that infrastructure plays as the backbone of any community. Prolonged neglect or underfunding of maintenance renders the entire water system vulnerable to failure, thereby endangering public health, safety, and economic stability. Neglecting water infrastructure may lead to water contamination, service interruptions, and unsanitary conditions, all of which pose significant health risks to the population. In Jackson, residents faced hurdles in accessing clean water for basic necessities such as drinking, bathing, and sanitation. The water crisis also led to economic consequences that affected local businesses, property values, and potential investments, exacerbating the inadequate funding necessary to address the issue. Communities that overlook infrastructure investment may inadvertently deter potential economic development opportunities that could have secured additional financial support. The crisis in Jackson disproportionately affected marginalized communities, underscoring the social inequalities directly linked to insufficient infrastructure. Given the historical context of racial discrimination in the area, the development of this inequity is unmistakable, accentuating the urgency of addressing these disparities and ensuring that all residents enjoy equitable access to essential services.

Bureaucratic Hurdles Can Delay Emergency Responses:[edit | edit source]

The Jackson water crisis casts a spotlight on the difficulties inherent in bureaucratic obstacles during emergencies. In crises, the necessity of efficient, streamlined processes is a cornerstone to prevent immediate responses from being delayed by bureaucratic semantic procedures. In this instance, the community endured significant suffering due to the shortcomings of these inefficient bureaucratic procedures. Effective communication and coordination among various levels of government, regulatory bodies, and local authorities are of utmost importance. Delays in decision-making and resource allocation exacerbate the impact of the crisis. While regulatory oversight is indispensable to maintain water quality and safety, it should be balanced with the need for swift response and flexibility during emergencies, taking into account that achieving compliance without inducing delays is a complex challenge. Involving the affected community in emergency response and decision-making can help bridge the gap between bureaucratic processes and the immediate needs of residents, leading to more effective and equitable responses. By using a constituent-first approach and involving the voices of the community in a comprehensive manner will ensure that proposed solutions actually fit the needs and characteristics of the community experiencing the crisis.

Adequate Funding for Infrastructure Maintenance is Essential for Preventing Future Crises:[edit | edit source]

The Jackson water crisis underscores the critical significance of consistent and sufficient funding for the maintenance, repair, and upgrading of infrastructure. Inadequate financial support leaves water systems vulnerable to deterioration, potentially resulting in recurrent crises. Adequate funding not only sustains water infrastructure but also ensures its resilience against environmental and operational challenges. It facilitates routine maintenance and proactive replacement of aging components. Investing in infrastructure maintenance often proves more cost-effective in the long run. Preventive maintenance and timely upgrades can avert the significantly higher costs associated with emergency repairs and crisis management. Adequate allocation of funding for infrastructure maintenance in communities with limited resources represents an essential component of valuing social responsibility and equity for that community. Ensuring access to clean and safe water is a fundamental right that should be protected.

In conclusion, the Jackson, Mississippi water crisis stands as a stark reminder of the dire consequences of neglecting water infrastructure. The lessons learned underscore the importance of proactive investment, streamlined emergency response processes, and an equitable approach to confronting infrastructure challenges. These insights can guide policies and practices in other communities, helping to avert comparable crises in the future and champion the well-being of all residents, irrespective of their economic status.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. How can other cities learn from Jackson's experience in terms of infrastructure maintenance and funding?
  2. What is the role of federal agencies in addressing water crises at the local level?
  3. How can equitable access to clean water be ensured in marginalized communities?
  4. What steps should be taken to improve emergency preparedness for similar crises in the future?

References[edit | edit source]

U.S./Mexico Border Infrastructure


This casebook is a case study on the US-Mexico border infrastructure developed by Abdulsalam Dreza, Noah Panchure, Anna Antonio-Vila and Assaf Sametip as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering, and Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

This marker denotes the boundary between the United States and Mexico, a physical representation of the border that stretches nearly 2,000 miles and is central to numerous discussions on immigration, trade, and security.

1. Introduction[edit | edit source]

1.1 Historical Overview[edit | edit source]

  • The demarcation of the current United States-Mexico border was solidified in 1848, creating the world's most traversed border, with around 350 million legal crossings each year.[71]
  • Stretching approximately 1,954 miles (3,145 kilometers), the border's importance emerged in the 19th century following Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821.[72]
  • The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, concluding the Mexican-American War, designated the Rio Grande as the international boundary and transferred vast territories including modern-day California, Arizona, and New Mexico to the United States.[73]

1.2 Importance of Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

The maintenance and shaping of the U.S./Mexico border are heavily reliant on infrastructure, serving as the backbone for logistical frameworks, technological systems, and physical structures that are essential for the movement of information, goods, and people.[74]

In the broader context of diplomatic and international relations, the infrastructure at the U.S./Mexico border underpins over two centuries of collaborative engagement between the two nations. As of 2023, Mexico stands as the largest trading partner of the United States, with significant trade volumes underscoring the interconnectedness of the two economies. This is reflected in the flow of $263 billion worth of goods and services in just the first four months of the year, a testament to the vital role that border infrastructure plays in supporting and facilitating this immense level of trade. Long-standing agreements like NAFTA and ongoing dialogues such as the HLED are buttressed by the physical realities of infrastructure that make continuous exchange possible, evidencing the interdependence of these neighboring countries.[75]

2. Border Dynamics[edit | edit source]

2.1 Pre-Colonial and Colonial Border Dynamics[edit | edit source]

The tapestry of the US/Mexico borderlands is woven with the threads of indigenous legacies and the scars of colonial incursions:

Once a fluid landscape, inhabited by tribes with intricate connections to the land, the advent of European colonialism introduced artificial demarcations, severing traditional territories and disrupting native societies.[76] The swath of land that would become the contentious border followed the Mexican-American War, materializing from treaties like Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gadsden Purchase, which reconfigured the geography into a rigid national divide.[77] These early impositions of borderlines prefigured the complex interplay of indigenous rights and national sovereignties, shaping the contentious zone that continues to evolve today.[78]

3. Border Infrastructure: Physical and Technological Barriers[edit | edit source]

3.1 Physical Barriers[edit | edit source]

The evolution of physical barriers at the US/Mexico border reflects the changing policies and challenges of border management:

  • The informal beginnings of border demarcation gave way to more formidable barriers in response to concerns about smuggling and illegal crossings in the early 20th century.
  • Significant expansions of barrier construction were implemented from the 1990s onward, driven by a series of legislative acts aimed at curbing illegal immigration and bolstering national security.[79]
  • As of the latest assessments, the border features a mix of tall fencing, walls, and vehicle barriers, each segment designed to respond to the unique geographical and security requirements of its location.[80]

Physical Barriers[edit | edit source]

The border wall at Nogales with concertina wire. This section illustrates the intensification of border security measures.

Physical barriers along the U.S./Mexico border, such as walls, fences, and vehicle barriers, have been central to efforts to deter unauthorized crossings. The border wall at Nogales, shown here, is an example of how such physical structures are complemented by additional security measures like concertina wire.

3.2 Technology and Surveillance[edit | edit source]

The integration of technology in border surveillance represents a shift towards a 'smart border' approach:

  • Autonomous surveillance towers, drones, biometric systems, and quick-response units constitute a multi-layered surveillance infrastructure that works alongside physical barriers to detect and prevent illegal activities.
  • The strategic use of these technologies allows for a dynamic response to border incidents and supports CBP in maintaining security with greater efficiency and less manpower on the ground.[81]

3.3 Ports of Entry[edit | edit source]

Ports of Entry (POEs) serve as the arteries of legal travel and trade between the US and Mexico, underlining the economic and cultural interconnectivity of the two nations:

  • The operation of these POEs involves complex layers of security measures to facilitate the flow of people and goods while ensuring compliance with immigration and customs regulations.
  • Infrastructure at POEs includes advanced scanning equipment for cargo, dedicated lanes for pre-screened travelers, and facilities designed to manage asylum requests and process immigration documentation.[82]

Geographical Context[edit | edit source]

Map showing the counties along the Mexico–U.S. border.

The U.S./Mexico border spans four U.S. states and six Mexican states, encompassing numerous counties with diverse demographics and economies. This map provides a geographical context for the border, illustrating the counties that are directly affected by border infrastructure and policies.

4. Impacts of the Border Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

4.1 Economic Impacts[edit | edit source]

The economic implications of border infrastructure are multifaceted, with effects on trade, commerce, and the livelihoods of border communities:

  • Efficient operation of POEs is crucial for trade, as they are key transit points for billions of dollars worth of goods and commodities that cross annually, supporting millions of jobs in both countries.[83]
  • Infrastructure improvements that reduce transit times can lead to substantial increases in trade volume, highlighting the economic significance of border infrastructure investment.[84]

4.2 Social Impacts[edit | edit source]

Social impacts of border infrastructure are deeply felt in border communities and extend to broader demographic and cultural trends:

  • The presence and nature of barriers can influence migration patterns, community cohesion, and cross-border family ties, making it a pivotal factor in the socio-cultural dynamics of the region.
  • Efforts to secure the border must balance enforcement with the legitimate economic and social needs of border communities, ensuring that security measures do not unduly disrupt local lives and economies.[85]

4.3 Environmental Impacts[edit | edit source]

The environmental consequences of border infrastructure are a subject of ongoing concern and debate:

  • Border enforcement activities and infrastructure can have deleterious effects on wildlife habitats, migration patterns, and local ecosystems, necessitating careful environmental planning and mitigation strategies.
  • Water resource management is particularly challenging in the border region, where the infrastructure intersects with delicate desert ecosystems and cross-border waterways, making bilateral environmental cooperation imperative.[86]

5. Modern issues and Future Directions[edit | edit source]

5.1 The Wall Debate: A Historical and Political Battleground[edit | edit source]

The concept of the wall has risen and fallen like the tides of political rhetoric and public sentiment:

Embroiled in partisan agendas, the wall has oscillated between a symbol of steadfast security and a monument to divisive politics, with administrations drawing lines in the sand that extend far beyond the physical barriers.[87] Scrutiny over the wall’s effectiveness has become a recurring chapter in the broader narrative of national security, immigration reform, and humanitarian concern, with each twist and turn prompting a reevaluation of its role in the American saga.[88] The ongoing discourse encompasses the fabric of economic, environmental, and ethical threads, each one pulling at the seams of policy and public opinion, and unraveling new challenges for the future of border integrity and human dignity.[89]

5.2 Technology and Privacy: Surveillance in the Balance[edit | edit source]

The modern era introduces a digital dimension to the age-old dilemmas of border security:

Technological advancements offer a double-edged sword, sharpening the capabilities for surveillance while potentially cutting into the rights to privacy, casting long shadows of concern across communities living in the border’s embrace.[90] The debate rages over the invisible boundaries set by digital monitoring, questioning the balance between protective oversight and invasive scrutiny, and whether the pursuit of security justifies the pervasive gaze of government.[91] As drones soar and cameras peer, the effectiveness of such measures is weighed against the backdrop of civil liberties, with each innovation prompting a reexamination of the principles that guard not just borders, but the freedoms of those within them.[92]

5.3 Migrant Narratives: The Human Cost of Borders[edit | edit source]

The border is more than a line; it's a nexus of human journeys, each marked by hope, hardship, and the search for a better life:

The multitude of reasons that propel migrants towards the border – from the ashes of conflict to the promise of opportunity – narrates a complex story of human migration, challenging the monolithic views often portrayed.[93] The demographics of migration reveal a kaleidoscope of individual faces and stories, defying uniform classification and demanding a nuanced understanding of the migrant experience.[94] Humanitarian concerns rise like a tide against the barriers, with each policy and physical fortification shaping the currents that carry migrants through perilous passages, leaving an indelible mark on the conscience of nations.[95] Diplomacy and international relations ebb and flow around the policies of the wall, where each stone laid

6. Upcoming Infrastructure Proposals[edit | edit source]

6.1 Future Projects and Considerations[edit | edit source]

Looking forward, border infrastructure proposals continue to evolve with changing policy priorities and technological advancements:

  • Anticipated projects include further enhancements to POE facilities, increased integration of renewable energy sources into border operations, and the application of AI to streamline customs processes.[96]
  • Considerations for future projects not only encompass security and efficiency but also community impact and environmental sustainability, reflecting a holistic approach to border infrastructure development.[97]

6.2 Technology's Role[edit | edit source]

Technological innovation is set to further redefine the landscape of border security and management:

  • Predictions for future surveillance involve the greater use of autonomous systems, AI-driven analytics, and remote sensing technologies to maintain a robust yet less obtrusive security presence.
  • The expansion of digital infrastructure aims to not only enhance surveillance but also improve the speed and accuracy of biometric identification processes at POEs, optimizing both security and traveler experience.[98]

6.3 Diplomatic Avenues[edit | edit source]

The future of border infrastructure is inextricably linked to the diplomatic relations between the US and Mexico:

  • Upcoming treaties and international collaborations will need to address the shared challenges of border security, migration management, and environmental conservation.
  • Enhanced bilateral cooperation is essential to manage the border effectively, with initiatives aimed at harmonizing security protocols and facilitating cross-border communication and response.[99]

7. Conclusion and Reflections[edit | edit source]

7.1 Modern Border Implications[edit | edit source]

Reflecting on the transformation of the US/Mexico border, certain trends and constants emerge:

  • Despite changes in technology and policy, the border remains a testament to the complex interplay of national security interests, humanitarian concerns, and the forces of globalization.
  • The border has consistently adapted to the shifting demands of its role as a frontier between two of the world's largest trading partners, while also serving as a symbol of the challenges and opportunities of international borders in the modern world.[100]

7.2 Way Forward[edit | edit source]

The path ahead for US/Mexico border relations requires a balanced approach that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of the border:

  • A forward-looking perspective considers not just the imperatives of border enforcement, but also the potential for the border to act as a conduit for cultural exchange and economic synergy.
  • The pursuit of a harmonious future for US/Mexico relations hinges on the capacity of both nations to craft border policies that reflect mutual respect, shared interests, and a commitment to the well-being of border communities and ecosystems.[101]

Border Security and Military Involvement[edit | edit source]

CBP Provost testifying on the involvement of the Department of Defense in border security operations.

The role of the Department of Defense (DoD) in supporting the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) efforts to secure the U.S./Mexico border has been a subject of discussion and legislative action. Here, the CBP Provost testifies before a committee, highlighting the collaborative efforts between the DoD and CBP in border security and infrastructure management.


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Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)

ADS-B System Communication

This casebook is a case study on Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) by Vinny Gaskin and Ian Bednarek as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Spring 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Shinkansen High Speed Rail Casebook. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is an advanced piece of technology that combines an aircraft's positioning source, aircraft avionics, and a ground infrastructure to create an accurate surveillance interface between the aircraft and air traffic control (ATC).[1] ADS-B allows for air-to-air and air-to-ground communication, which enables a one-way contact between pilots and ATC, as well as pilot to pilot.[2] ADS-B is a performance-based surveillance technology that is more precise than radar and consists of two different services: ADS-B Out and ADS-B In.[1] ADS-B Out allows for aircrafts to relay information such as their identification, current altitude, positioning, and velocity, to other vehicles and air traffic control centers. ADS-B In provides aircraft with the ability to receive this information.

ADS-B is 'automatic' because it doesn't require input from any pilot or other external interrogation. It is 'dependent' because it relies on the accuracy of an aircraft's navigation system with factors of positioning and velocity data. The 'surveillance' of ADS-B is aircraft position, altitude, velocity, and other data that is provided to the facilities that require this data. Lastly, the 'broadcast' part of the name refers to the information being broadcasted, every half-second at 1090MHz, to be monitored appropriately by the designated ATC ground stations and other aircraft.[3]

As of April 2023, ADS-B is required when flying in Class B and C airspaces in the United States. There are five different classes of airspaces in aviation, these classes are separated by their elevation and proximity to prominent airports. Class A airspaces refer to anywhere between 18,000 and 60,000 feet above sea level. Class B airspaces go from sea level to 10,000 feet high when in the vicinity of an airport with heavy traffic. Class C airspaces are similar to Class B, but they only extend from sea level to 4,000 feet above the surface when close to a busy airport. Class D airspaces surround less crowded, smaller airports from sea level to 2,500 feet above ground. Class E airspaces are controlled and are around federal airways or other important approach paths. A pilot would need prior permission from Air Traffic Control Towers before operating in Class A and B airspaces. In Class C and D airspaces they would need an established two-way communication with the Air Traffic Control Towers.[4]

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

1990 - The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) embraced "Global Positioning System" (GPS) technology.[5]

March 2003 - A presentation of ADS-B's abilities was delivered to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) by the AOPA. These demonstrations were done to inspire a possible integration of the technology into CAP activities.

2006 - Sweden began installing its nationwide ADS-B network using 12 ground stations. Finished installations in 2007.

2007 - The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) started to implement ADS-B infrastructure and mandatory aircraft equipage.[5]

December 2008 - The FAA administrator granted permission for the installation of the first fully functional ADS-B system in the United States. The installation happened at a location in southern Florida.[6]

2009 - Canada joins other countries in the advancement of aviation technology by commissioning operational use of ADS-B to provide coverage of the areas that formerly lacked it.[7]

May 2010 - The FAA published a rule that by January 1, 2020, all aircraft owners must equip their vehicles with ADS-B Out systems when flying in Class A, B, C airspaces and in Class E airspaces when flying higher than 2500 feet above ground level. This mandate became effective on August 2010.[8]

June 2012 - Chevron Corporation and FreeFlight Systems were awarded a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) by the FAA for equipping a Gulf of Mexico (GOMEX) helicopter with ADS-B. This is special as the Gulf of Mexico is a crowded area with intense traffic as thousands of flights taking place every day.[9]

September/October 2019 - The FAA successfully reached its final milestone in ADS-B implementation. The final two airports, both located in Ohio, received ADS-B and became functional during September 2019. This was monumental as all airports were equipped with ADS-B and it became operation all across the country before the due date of January 1st, 2020 all while staying within budget.[10]

April 2023/Present Day - In the United States, ADS-B is currently required in all aircrafts when flying over the 48 connected states when operating above Flight Level (FL) 100, or 10,000 feet above the ground. When flying at FL 100 or below this altitude ADS-B is still required only when operating in class B or C airspace, or when flying within 12 miles (nautical miles) of the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico while flying over 3000 feet above sea level. These requirements change for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the other United States territories, as they have their own unique regulations.[11]

Narrative[edit | edit source]

In 2012 a researcher made the claim that ADS-B technology had no defense mechanism against “spoofing” or the sending of faulty messages by identifying , this risk was due to the fact that ADS-B’s data was neither authenticated or encrypted.[12] The lack of encryption throughout the messages delivered by ADS-B makes them able to be read by anybody, which poses a security risk.

The FAA responded to these concerns by stating that they were currently being dealt with but could not disclose the methods of how these issues were being dealt with as the methods they were employing were classified.

Aircraft that are equipped with only a transponder, or with no transponder at all will not appear on the radar of ADS-B. This means that pilots who become overconfident or over-reliant in the capabilities of ADS-B may not be able to identify aircraft that lack the technology to appear on their radars, which is a great safety to both pilots and aircraft involved.

Another system that is frequently used by aircrafts in the United States and other countries across the world is FLARM. FLARM is a combination of the words flight and alarm and is used on most glider aircraft, which poses a problem as FLARM technology is not compatible with ADS-B.

There was also controversy regarding the ADS-B mandate which required implementation of ADS-B on all aircraft by January 1, 2020. Many pilots were outraged as they were forced to equip their vehicles with technology as expensive as ADS-B is. Many pilots anticipated that the FAA would rescind the mandate in hopes that they would not be forced to outfit their own vehicles with ADS-B. This mandate made some pilots claim that ADS-B was an unnecessary addition that drive many casual pilots away from the aviation industry.[13]

Key Organizations and Institutions[edit | edit source]

Key organizations and institutions involved with the development of ADS-B technology include:

Seal of the United States Federal Aviation Administration

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA):

Transportation agency in the United States that became a part of the Department of Transportation in 1967. The FAA regulates U.S. commercial space transportation, and all civil aviation within the United States and surrounding waters to promote safety. The FAA also develop and operate air traffic control and navigation systems for civil and military aircraft.[14]

National Business Aviation Association (NBAA):

Leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful.[15] The NBAA supports efforts to modernize the United States' airspace, such as the equipage of satellite-based ADS-B capabilities for monitoring aircraft in the skies and on the ground.[16]

American Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA):

The American Owners and Pilots Association, incorporated in 1939, is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to general aviation.[17] The AOPA supports the concept of ADS-B and knows the importance of near-universal participation. However, the AOPA has contributed its input on the FAA's implementation strategy. The AOPA suggested different technical changes that can make the ADS-B systems more affordable, and has also suggested that aircraft should be allowed to remove their transponders due to the transitions from radar and transponders to ADS-B.[5]

Cargo Airline Association (CAA):

The Cargo Airline Association, originally founded as the Air Freight Forwarders Association, is an organization that represents air freight forwarders (indirect air carriers) and five all-cargo airline members of the cargo industry.[18] When word got out that the FAA may delay oceanic Air Traffic Control operations of space-based ADS-B by 6 to 7 years (from 2022 to 2028/2029), the CAA joined the interested aviation stakeholders in a letter to FAA Administrator, Steve Dickson. Contents of this letter presented the stakeholders' urge for the leadership to ensure that every necessary step to implement the space-based ADS-B in the United States oceanic airspace was taken, in order to meet the original start date as close as possible.[19]

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU):

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace. In May of 2003 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University began using ADS-B on its main two campuses, in Arizona and Florida, as safety reassurance. In 2006 ERAU became the first aircraft to combine ADS-B with a glass cockpit.[20]

University of North Dakota:

The University of North Dakota is one of the most comprehensive aerospace universities in the world. In 2006 an aerospace researcher from the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND received a $300,000 grant from the FAA to research ADS-B technology. The university's aircrafts have since been equipped with ADS-B packages.[21]

Funding & Financing[edit | edit source]

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact cost on how expensive it is to install ADS-B in the present day, as there are many variables that go into this cost. Some of the variables that determine the price of ADS-B include, type of equipment being installed, the certification process, and the cost of labor that it would take to install it. A group of pilots from a 2019 thread claim that the cost that they paid to install ADS-B into their own aircrafts ranges anywhere from $1000 to $7000.[22]

The lead funding agency for ADS-B is the FAA. ADS-B is purchased either in bulk by organizations such as the FAA or by individual pilots for their own personal usage.

In April 2011, an equipping fund for general aviation aircraft was permitted through US federal legislation via House Bill for FAA reauthorization [23]

A 2016 article claims that to meet the FAA's requirements the minimum cost for ADS-B installation would cost pilots around $4000 to $6000 and more complex systems will be even more pricey.[24]

In 2020, a Texas-based Aerospace company named FreeFlight Systems made the claim that they will deliver ADS-B systems that meet FAA requirements while costing no more than $2,000. [25]

Garmin and other GPS-enabled technology companies currently have ADS-B and transponder systems for sale on their websites. The least expensive system that included both ADS-in and ADS-out came out to be around $2,500. This is a good estimate on how pricey a fully operational ADS-B system would be in today's market.

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

Exemption 12555: Navigation Accuracy Category for Position and Navigation Integrity Category Exemption

  • "does not exempt the requirement for compliant ADS-B Out equipment to be installed and operational on aircraft flying in ADS-B rule airspace.
  • does allow for the extended use of an older type of GPS navigation receiver already installed in some aircraft. All other ADS-B Out equipment requirements must still be met and operational.
  • was granted because multi-frequency/multi-constellation GPS navigation receivers suitable for transport category aircraft that meet the ADS-B Out Rule requirements were not available for purchase or installation in sufficient quantities until closer to 2020.
  • imposes certain conditions, limitations and additional pre-flight responsibilities on the operators." [26]

ADS-B Support Pilot Program: FAA-proposed program that allows for airports to receive AIP grant money to supplement other FAA funding sources for ADS-B ground equipment.[27]

May 2010 - the FAA issued a final rule prescribing equipage requirements and performance standards for ADS-B Out avionics on aircraft operating in certain airspace after January 1, 2020.[28]

2019 - Operators were required to confirm that a planned route of flight would comply with the ADS-B performance requirements.[28]

An ADS-B receiver

Lessons Learned/Takeaways[edit | edit source]

Ostrom's Infrastructure Performance Criteria:

Efficiency: ADS-B is an incredibly efficient piece of technology that has revolutionized the aviation industry for the better. ADS-B improves the flow of air traffic with more efficient spacing and optimized routing to get pilots to their destinations efficiently, no matter what environmental conditions are thrown their way. This optimized routing leads to shorter flight times which benefits the environment by reducing fuel usage and pollution as well as saving time for the pilots and passengers. ADS-B systems provide air traffic control with updated information on their whereabouts nearly every second, which is far more efficient than the average radar that updates every 5 to 12 seconds. These constant updates allow pilots to identify threats quickly and react accordingly which leads to increased safety during a flight.[29] It is not a perfect system though as a lack of encryption and authentication can make it suspectable to being hacked quite easily by someone with bad intent.

Fiscal Equivalence: Installing ADS-B equipment can cost pilots anywhere from $1000 to $7000 depending on a few variables. There is a lot to consider when deciding if the installation of ADS-B is a fiscally equivalent process or not. It is a one-time purchase that brings great benefit to pilots and gives them access to most airspaces, but it may not be worth it for some pilots that do not fly often or only operate in unclassified airspaces.

Redistribution: ADS-B does not contribute in terms of redistributing wealth as it only affects a specific group of people. ADS-B only directly influences pilots and those who are wealthy enough to take flights frequently. The cost to install ADS-B can be quite a burden on pilots as well, this means casual aircraft fliers may be disadvantaged if they cannot afford to equip the technology required. Rather than taking from the rich and giving back to the poor, ADS-B seems to take from the middle-class citizens and give it back to the rich. In less general terms ADS-B, specifically the 2020 mandate, benefitted the FAA and ATC and it was a detriment to individual pilots.

Accountability: When potential security risks were brought up to the FAA, they responded to these concerns by stating that they were currently being dealt with but could not disclose the methods of how these issues were being dealt with as the methods they were employing were classified. This shows questionable accountability because if the public does not know how you are dealing with these security issues there is no way to know that they are being dealt with at all.

Adaptability: ADS-B is still relatively new, so it is hard to say how adaptable it truly is. The technology has not evolved or had many changes made to it since its inception, it still accomplishes the same goals it did in the early 2000s. Also, there was little substantial news about ADS-B from 2010 to the present day aside from its implementation and the regulations made detailing when ADS-B use is required.

Overall, as the 2020 mandate hit and ADS-B is now required when operating in most airspaces the technology is something that pilots all over the country have to become accustomed to. This new system propelled the United States aviation industry forward to a modern satellite-based system which comes with a multitude of benefits when flying. Optimized routing, improved safety, reduced pollution, and increased airspace capacity to name a few of the benefits. It does not come without its controversies though, such as potential security risks, anger from pilots over the 2020 mandate, and the expensive nature of ADS-B installation for casual pilots. Generally speaking, the pros seem to far outweigh the cons and ADS-B is the technological breakthrough the aviation industry needed to make the transfer over into the modern world. [30]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

Could you see ADS-B, or technology with similar features and functions, being used in other infrastructure aside from aircrafts in the future?

Do you think ADS-B implementation should be a universal requirement?

Do you agree with the FAA's decision to mandate ADS-B for all aircraft?

What is next for the aviation industry now that ADS-B has been fully implemented?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b "Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) | Federal Aviation Administration". Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  2. "How ADS-B has Shaped the Modern Aviation Industry". Spire : Global Data and Analytics. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  3. "How ADS-B works". Airservices. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  4. "Airspace Classes 101". Phoenix East Aviation. 2014-07-08. Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  5. a b c "Air Traffic Services Brief -- Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)". 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  6. "FAA Officially Launches Radar's Replacement". FLYING Magazine. 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  7. "NAV CANADA - NAV CANADA announces the acquisition of new surveillance technology to improve air traffic safety and customer efficiency". 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  8. "Federal Register :: Request Access". Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  9. "FreeFlight Receives STC for AW139 ADS-B Installation by FAAAeroExpo". Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  10. "FAA Successfully Completes Final ADS-B Milestone | Federal Aviation Administration". Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  11. Davidson, Jason (2023-04-10). "ADS-B UPDATE 2023 – WHERE ARE WE NOW?". Universal® Operational Insight Blog. Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  12. Prince, Brian (2012-07-27). "Air Traffic Control Systems Vulnerabilities Could Make for Unfriendly Skies [Black Hat]". SecurityWeek. Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  13. Pope, Stephen (2014-11-19). "Six Big Myths About the ADS-B Mandate". FLYING Magazine. Retrieved 2023-04-16.
  14. "What we do | Federal Aviation Administration". Retrieved 2023-04-11.
  15. "About NBAA". NBAA - National Business Aviation Association. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  16. "Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)". NBAA - National Business Aviation Association. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  17. "History of AOPA". 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  18. "About". CAA: Cargo Airline Association. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  19. Rose, Yvette (2021-07-28). "CAA Supports Space Based ADS-B in Joint Letter to FAA Administrator". CAA: Cargo Airline Association. Retrieved 2023-04-14.
  20. "Embry-Riddle to Use Revolutionary ADS-B System". 2008-01-12. Retrieved 2023-04-13.
  22. "ADS-B install cost - what did you pay?". Pilots of America. Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  24. Smith, Dale (2017-06-08). "The Cost of ADS-B Compliance: You're Looking at it Wrong". FLYING Magazine. Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  25. "FreeFlight launches ADS-B Out solution under $2,000". 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  26. "Exemption 12555 | Federal Aviation Administration". Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  27. "Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: An Overview of Selected Provisions in Proposed Legislation Considered by the 110th Congress". Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  28. a b "Federal Register :: Request Access". Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  29. "Benefits | Federal Aviation Administration". Retrieved 2023-04-15.
  30. Staff, Air Facts (2013-04-18). "The Great Debate: is ADS-B good or bad?". Air Facts Journal. Retrieved 2023-04-17.

GPS: Global Positioning System

This casebook is a case study on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) by Andrew Shibley and Sean Thiltgen as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: CEIE 499-002 Spring 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook. Under the instruction of Prof. Jonathan Gifford.

GPS Satellite

Summary[edit | edit source]

Global Positioning Systems, better known as GPS, is a United States owned utility and technology that has changed infrastructure as we know it. Overall, GPS provides users with positioning, navigating, and timing (PNT) services. The system consists of three different segments. These are: the Space Segment, the Control Segment, and the User Segment. The United States Space Force controls and maintains both the Space and Control Segments.[1]

    The Space Segment consists of multiple satellites that transmit data to users. The US space force has been operating 31 satellites for over ten years now. The satellites in the “GPS constellation” as it is called, are arranged into six equally-spaced planes surrounding the Earth. Each plane contains four spaces that are occupied by satellites. This arrangement ensures that users can view at least four satellites from almost any point on the planet. The Space Force normally flies more than 24 GPS satellites whenever the satellites in each plane are repaired or decommissioned. Usually, these extra satellites improve GPS performance.[1]

    The Control Segment consists of a network of facilities around the globe that track the GPS satellites, monitor their transmissions, perform analyses, and send commands to the GPS constellation. The current Operational Control Segment (OCS) is comprised of a master control station, a secondary master control station, eleven antennas used for commands, and sixteen monitoring sites. The locations of these facilities can be seen in the Maps of locations and diagrams section of this casebook.[1]

The User Segment, as the name implies, revolves around the user of GPS. Much like the Internet, railways, or highways, GPS is an essential element of global infrastructure. The innovation of GPS has directly led to the development of hundreds of applications affecting every aspect of life today. GPS technology is now in everything from cell phones to cars, airplanes, and ATM's. GPS is also critical to U.S. national security, and its applications are integrated in almost every aspect of U.S. military operations. Nearly all new military technologies integrate GPS.[1]

Actors and Institutions Involved[edit | edit source]

Public Actors[edit | edit source]

National Executive Committee for Space-Based Position, Navigation, and Timing: Executive Level Advisory Committee that provides guidance to its underlined member agencies and organizations.
Under this Committee the following US government organizations and agencies operate, manage, and/or use US-owned GPS systems. [2]
US Department of Defense - The DoD is the main operating agency for US GPS Systems and acquires, contracts, sustains, and secures its satellites, control segments, and military use equipment.
US Department of Transportation - Operates the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) which provides augmented navigation information for aircraft in the United States. DoT also serves as the lead civilian agency on GPS-related issues.
US Department of State - Coordinates US foreign policy objectives regarding GPS and leads US delegations to international events, organizations, and committees which handle GPS spectrum allocations and discussions.
US Department of the Interior - Uses GPS for a wide variety of government activities, including: surveying; geographical information systems; and land management.
US Department of Agriculture - Conducts research for applications of GPS in agriculture alongside integrating GPS technology in cartography and fire suppression/protection plans.
US Department of Commerce - Manages and operates the Continuously Operating Reference Stations (CORS) network in the United States, as well as co-managing the radio spectrum used by GPS with the FCC.
US Department of Energy - Utilizes GPS systems to synchronize, and manage the US Electric Grid including detecting and managing relay stations and fault protection systems.
US Department of Homeland Security - Reports on and maintains databases covering domestic and international disuse and interference to civil GPS usage. Provides civil GPS support through the Coast Guards Navigational Center (NAVCEN) and the Civil GPS Service Interface Committee (CGSIC).
US Joint Chiefs of Staff - Oversees and validates requirements for the modernization of current and future GPS Systems under the GPS III project.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration - Operates both the Global Differential GPS System and reference stations for the International GNSS Service. NASA also provides research on new technology for space-borne GPS systems and new uses for aging satellites.

Private Actors[edit | edit source]

Lockheed Martin - Since 1997 Lockheed Martin has been the main manufacturer of US GPS Satellites, and continues to be the main private company tasked with the continued production and modernization of the space-borne fleet.
TomTom - A Dutch GPS receiver manufacturing company and one of the first to offer commercial civilian GPS receivers in the form of SatNav.
Raytheon - Raytheon was awarded the Next Generation GPS Operational Control System (OCX) contract , which aims to work in conjunction with Block III modernization in offering better more robust control systems.

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

Early Stages[edit | edit source]

1960’s: The origin of GPS starts in the Sputnik era when scientists were able to track the satellite with shifts in its radio signal. The United States Navy started conducting satellite navigation experiments to track US submarines carrying nuclear missiles. Submarines were able to see the satellite changes and find the submarine's location within minutes.[3]

Post 1960: The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) used the principle from the Sputnik era to develop “Transit”. This was the world's first global satellite navigation system. The first satellite was capable of providing navigation to military as well as commercial users. By 1968 thirty-six satellites were fully operational. Transit is known for improving the accuracy of maps by nearly two orders of magnitude. This helped to increase the acceptance and overall need of satellite navigation.[3]

Early 1970s: Using previous ideas from Navy scientists, the Department of Defense started to use satellites to support their proposed navigation system. They then created this navigation system and launched the first “Navigation System with Timing and Ranging” (NAVSTAR) satellite in 1978. The satellite system would become fully operational in 1993.[3]

1972: Colonel Bradford Parkinson of the Air Force was tasked with overseeing the satellite navigation program. Parkinson led a team in creating a concept that took the best parts of TRANSIT. This system proposal received Defense Department approval in December of 1973 for a 1-way system of 24 satellites.[3]

1974: This approach began when the Air Force started development of the first of a series of Navstar satellites, the ground control system, and various types of military user equipment.[3]

Making Progress[edit | edit source]

1978: The first “Block I developmental Navstar/GPS” satellite launched. Three more were launched at the end of this same year.[3]

1980: Additional GPS Block I demonstration satellites were launched.

1983: Ronald Reagan authorized the use of Navstar, now known as GPS, for commercial airlines in an attempt to improve navigation and safety for air travel.[3]

Road Towards Civilian Use[edit | edit source]

1984-1989:  Authorization was given to provide free access of GPS data to industries that were not the U.S. military. This became the first step towards civilian usage. [3]

By 1989, commercially available handheld GPS devices would hit the market. [3]

Throughout the 90s, GPS technology continued to improve.

Benefon GPS

1999: GPS technology appeared for the first time in a cellphone when Benefon released Benefon Esc!. This was a phone that had GPS that would pave the way for more. During this time, Global Positioning Technology also began to show up in automobiles.[3]

2000: The government approves plans to add three additional GPS signals for non-military use. As a result, GPS signals became 10 times more accurate for civilians. During this time the price for GPS receiver chips dropped from $3,000 to $1.50.[3]

Present Day[edit | edit source]

2005: By this time GPS satellites included five different configurations with different capabilities.

2018: The first GPS III satellite was launched at SpaceX falcon 9.

2019: The second satellite was launched.

2020: The third and fourth satellites were launched.

The remaining six satellites are scheduled to be launched in 2023.

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

GPS is owned and operated by the United States government and is primarily funded by the US Department of Defense (DoD).  After the development of GPS began in the 1970s it was initially funded by the US military for use in their operations. However, as the system quickly proved to have multiple civilian applications which included navigation, surveying, mapping, and timing, the US government started to fund the system's expansion for civilian use.

In the early days of GPS, around 1983, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive that made GPS freely available for civilian use. This led to increased demand for GPS devices and services, which, in turn, created revenue for private companies that developed and sold GPS products.

Today, the US government continues to fund the GPS system's maintenance and upgrades. This can be very expensive. In 2019, the DoD budgeted $1.4 billion for GPS operations, including $837 million for satellite procurement and $482 million for ground control.[4] In addition, congress provided about $22 billion to fund the GPS program in the 2022 fiscal year.[5]

According to the official US government GPS webpage, the rest of the money to fund GPS actually comes from taxpayer dollars. The money is then budgeted through the Department of defense. In addition, per section 5 of the Memorandum on Space Policy Directive 7, the Department of Transportation is responsible for funding civil signal performance monitoring and overall any civil capabilities involving GPS. In other words: non-military application. [5]

Apple Inc.

In addition to the government's funding, private companies also invest in GPS technology. These companies typically focus on developing GPS enabled devices and applications. Such devices include: smartphones, fitness trackers, and vehicle navigation devices. Some of the major companies that help finance and develop GPS technology include Garmin, TomTom, and Apple.

The US government also partners with other countries to finance and develop GPS technology. The European Union, using the same technology as the US, has developed its own satellite navigation system, called Galileo, which is designed to be compatible with GPS. In 2004, the US and the EU signed an agreement establishing this cooperation.[6] The European Union has invested over $14 billion in the Galileo program and continues to fund its development and operation.

Overall, the US government primarily funds and operates the GPS system through money earned from taxpayer dollars. However, private companies also contribute to its development and use. The government's investment in GPS technology has generated significant profit for private companies and has led to numerous civilian applications using the system. In addition, partnerships with other countries have helped to expand and improve GPS technology, making it a great tool for navigation, surveying, and mapping.

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

The Global Positioning System is owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. The arrangements involved with GPS are quite complicated and involve a number of different entities and institutions.

At the highest level, GPS is governed and overseen by the United States government, specifically the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Executive Committee. The Executive Committee was established by presidential directive and coordinates GPS related matters across multiple federal agencies. The committee is chaired by the Deputy Secretary of Defense and includes representatives from a number of government agencies, including the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and NASA. The Executive Committee is responsible for setting policy and providing guidance for the GPS program.[7]

Seal of the United States Space Force

As stated before, the regular operation of the GPS system is carried out by the United States Space Force, a branch of the US military responsible for space operations. The Space Force operates a number of different satellite systems, including the GPS constellation, which is made up of more than two dozen satellites in orbit around the Earth. The Space Force is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the GPS system, as well as ensuring its security, stability, and durability.[8]

In addition to the government, there are a number of private companies that provide services related to GPS. These include manufacturers of GPS devices and software, as well as companies that use GPS data to provide location services used in navigation. For example, in 2018, Apple worked with the Department of Defense to test a new GPS signal that would provide more accurate location data for iPhones. These companies are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

One of the most important institutions involved with GPS is the International GNSS Service (IGS). The IGS is an international network of more than two hundred organizations that provide GPS and other Global Navigation data to support scientific research. The IGS collects data from a number of different sources and uses this data to create accurate positioning information that can be used for earthquake monitoring, climate research, and other purposes.[9]

Another important arrangement involving GPS is the Federal Radionavigation Plan (FRP). The FRP is a document that outlines the United States government's policies and plans for radionavigation systems, which include GPS. The FRP is updated regularly when changes happen with technology and policy. The FRP also can be used as a guide for government agencies and private companies involved with GPS.[10]

There are also a few international agreements that oversee the use of GPS. These include agreements between the United States and other countries in regard to the use of GPS for military and civilian purposes. These also include agreements between the United States and international organizations such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The institutional arrangements involved with GPS are complex and involve a number of different government agencies, private companies, and international organizations. These arrangements are designed to make sure GPS is as effective as possible and to promote the use of GPS for research and a wide range of applications.

Maps of Locations and Diagrams[edit | edit source]

GPS Constellation
GPS Constellation

This is an imagining of the GPS constellation.

Map showing GPS ground locations

Policy and Technical Issues[edit | edit source]

Public Availability and Policy[edit | edit source]

Originally, when GPS was first created the main two frequency bands were split between public access and a private government use frequency creating the "Selective Availability" system. As the public began to rely more and more on GPS for everyday navigation and positioning the lower civilian band began to show its limitations. With accuracy ranging from a minimum of 3.5 meters to upwards of 15 the US government recognized the importance of GPS in everyday civilian life. Following this recognition in 1996 GPS was classified as a national asset and important infrastructure, thus giving the public access to both the upper and lower L bands, improving accuracy up to 3.5 meters and providing the public with access to a signal that was non-degraded due to atmospheric interference.

Following the discontinuation of the "Selective Availability" system in 2000, the cost of commercially available receivers dropped considerably, allowing for an even wider public access to GPS positioning. As a consequence current Block I and Block II GPS satellites were unable to meet the demand of users, thus necessitating the Block III modernization project.

Technical Issues[edit | edit source]

GPS systems rely on "line-of-sight" between the receiver and at minimum 4 satellites overhead in orbit. As this line-of-sight decays, due to inclement weather or the receiver being blocked in buildings with high amounts of internal copper wiring. Due to high amounts of interference the accuracy of data being received by the receiver becomes highly inaccurate giving a high margin of error to position data.
During the 1990's this issue was not as prevalent as the modern day, with many modern buildings having more dense and expansive wiring throughout. Some solutions to this issue of inaccuracy position or outright position data not working in buildings is through supplementing satellite based position data with information that can be gathered by Wifi or Cellular signals. This helps to bypass the main constraint of GPS which requires it to be "in view" of the reciever. Companies such as Apple and Google have begun to implement this system to provide greater accuracy when near objects, or in buildings, that could otherwise block the signals coming off of GPS satellites.[11]

Potential Vulnerabilities and Future Issues[edit | edit source]

GPS is uniquely vulnerable for several reasons and has specific systems that are able to be disrupted in both sophisticated and unsophisticated ways which has presented issues in its use. One such vulnerability to the GPS system is the US energy grid’s reliance on GPS timing for use in relays as well as maintaining the phase timing across changing electrical systems. According to the US Department of Energy disruption of these systems has the potential to cause small scale black outs or disruptions to the United States power grid.[12] Disruptions such as this have been minor, although have the potential to increase given wave-length crowding in Low Earth and Medium Earth Orbit.
Several International Conferences have carved out space on the electromagnetic spectrum in the L1, L2 and L5 bands[13], which has allowed for GPS to remain largely noise free since its creation. Since the late 1990s more and more nations have begun to create their own satellite programs, as well as competing GPS systems. GLONASS and BeiDou are examples of both Russian and Chinese satellites systems that directly compete for commercial end-user use on the ground.[14] These efforts alongside the increase in commercial and civilian satellite programs has caused issues of wave-length crowding in low earth and mid earth orbits. Block III and the OCX system is currently attempting to address some of these problems. This is being achieved through providing more error correcting software and new ground stations that can ensure that signals from GPS satellites are accurate and reliable given the greater crowding of radio space in orbit and on the ground.[15]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

Do you think that GPS should continue to be solely controlled by the US government?

Given GPS's interconnectivity with modern day navigation and day-to-day life is there a need to increase its available bandwidth and security systems?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named :1
  2. National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT). "Federal Agencies".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k “Brief History of GPS: The Aerospace Corporation.” Aerospace Corporation, March 1, 2023.
  4. Erwin, Sandra. “Pentagon Space Procurement and R&D Budget Is on an Upward Trend. How Long Can This Last?” SpaceNews, January 23, 2023.
  5. a b "Program Funding.” Program Funding. Accessed March 20, 2023.,ending%20September%2030%2C%202022).&text=President%20Biden's%20FY%202023%20budget,billion%20for%20the%20GPS%20program.
  6. “International Cooperation.” International Cooperation. Accessed March 20, 2023.,GPS%20and%20Europe's%20Galileo%20system.
  7. “Charter.” Charter of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  8. “Space Segment.” Space Segment. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  9. NASA. NASA. Accessed March 27, 2023.
  10. “Radionavigation Systems Planning.” U.S. Department of Transportation. Accessed March 27, 2023.
  11. "Control Access Point Inclusion in Location Services". Google. Retrieved 1 April 2023.
  12. "Edge Detection of Grid Anomalies". Darknet.Ornl.Gov U.S. DoE. Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  13. "Time and Frequency, GPS". NIST. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  14. "Other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)". Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  15. "GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System". Raytheon Intelligence and Space. Retrieved 30 March 2023.


  1. “The Global Positioning System.” GPS Overview. Accessed March 15, 2023.,segment%2C%20and%20the%20user%20segment.


Oroville Dam

This casebook is a case study on the Oroville Dam Failure by Matthew Glaubke, Davis Kaderli and Ian Gates as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Spring 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Shinkansen High Speed Rail Casebook. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Just 70 miles above Sacramento, this earth fill dam is located where the three forks of the Feather River meet. The dam is the tallest dam in the United States and is also the largest water storage and delivery system that is state-owned. It includes a spillway system for runoff water from connecting bodies of water that connect to it. It is owned by the California Department of Water Resources. It is an important factor for the California State Water project. Water that is stored in the dam flows down the river and goes into the Sacramento river system. The dam creates a reservoir that holds around 3.5 million acre-feet of water. It features a fish barrier dam and pool. [2]

The Oroville Dam also protects the residents who are located downstream from possible flooding of the Feather river. One of the most critical aspects of the dam is its role in helping the California water system combat droughts that occur. Because of these functions, the dam is extremely important for Northern California. [3]

What is an earth fill dam and spillway system?[edit | edit source]

An earth fill dam is made up of compressed earth. Local soil is the main material used for it. Most of these dams contain a middle zone called the core. This zone is made up of low-permeable material. These clayey soils in the core help prevent water from passing through the dam.[4]

They are the most common type of dam that can be built to any height. They are created as a non-overflow section with a separate spillway. They are the most common because of their foundation requirements, which are not as extensive as other dams. Also, high-skilled labor is not required to construct it.[5]

A dam spillway system is a structure that forms part of the dam. Sometimes they are found just beside one. Their purpose is to allow floodwater to safely flow through the dam when a reservoir is full. It is located at a lower height than the rest of the dam. This allows for the water to flow down from the dam onto the spillway.[6]

Institutions and actors involved[edit | edit source]

There were multiple entities that were responsible for the collapse of Oroville Dam. They collectively work together to monitor the dam and provide maintenance and risk information.

California Department of Water Resources:

The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) is responsible for the regulation and management of California’s water usage and supply. It manages the water chain of 750,000 acres of California farmland and provides water to California cities and industries. It also helps with flood control, recreational opportunities, hydroelectric power generation, and enhancements that help protect fish and wildlife ecosystems. The DWR’s oversight runs from Northern California to Southern California. In its scope, it oversees 36 storage facilities, 21 dumping plants, 5 hydroelectric plants, and 4 pumping-generation plants.

They have a large number of responsibilities. They oversee the process that updates and develops the California Water Bulletin. They are in charge of regulating dams, providing flood protection, and helping with emergency management. They work to keep California dams safe and up to date. The agency has oversight of the Oroville Dam.[7]

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the federal agency that regulates and oversees electricity, natural gas, and oil. This involves the regulation of wholesale electricity sales and transmission of electricity for interstate commerce. They reinforce mandatory reliability standards for the state power systems.

One of the commission’s main authorities is its oversight of all hydroelectric power projects. One of the main functions of the commission is maintaining dam safety. They conduct security inspections, monitor infrastructure for environmental concerns, and enforce dam safety. They also are in charge of issuing new permits and licensing for new hydropower projects. The commission consults with federal and state natural resources agencies and state water quality agencies before starting new projects. 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulates the construction and operational phases of new hydropower projects. The commission reviews and approves the designs, specifications, and plans of powerhouses, dams, and other infrastructure. Staff engineers inspect the projects on a regular basis so that they are kept up to date.[8]

Federal Emergency Management Agency:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) acts as the primary point of contact for disaster recovery preparedness for states. They establish and maintain networks for disaster recovery resources and support systems. They also put in place recovery progress plans and communicate improvements to authorities after a disaster. They work with the National Dam Safety Program to strengthen and develop tools to assist decision-makers.[9]

Division of Safety of Dams:

Aside from the DWR, the California water code also assigns dam safety regulatory power to the Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD). They provide supervision for the design, construction, and maintenance of over 1000 dams in California. The agency reviews and approves dam enlargements, alterations, and repairs to make sure that the structures meet minimum requirements. They inspect dams on a regular basis to confirm that they are safe and functioning.[10]

Friends of the River:

Friends of the River is a California activist organization committed to the environmental preservation of California Rivers and drinking water. It was founded in 1973 and they are now one of California’s leading river conservation organizations. They engage in grass-roots organizing and lobbying to influence policymakers. They have led a variety of successful campaigns that were able to influence dam and river infrastructure.[11]

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

The Oroville Dam is publicly funded by the California Department of Water Resources. The DWC funds flood mitigation, management projects, and invests in dam maintenance measures. The DWC worked with Kiewit Corp to form a contract to repair the damages caused by the accident. The dam was originally financed by the DWR.[12] FEMA has a Public Assistance program that reimburses applicants for project disasters. The program covers up to 75% of the possible costs connected with a federally declared disaster. After the Spillway accident, the Department of Water Resources requested $308 million for reconstruction and emergency response funding from the Federal Management Agency. After initially declining, they sent the funds to the DWC that were able to help with reconstruction.[13] 

Timeline of Dam Construction and Failure[edit | edit source]

1957: The facilities relating to the dam begin construction

1961: The construction of the dam begins.

Dec. 8, 2016, to Jan. 31, 2017: Lake Oroville bottoms out Dec. 8 at 725-foot elevation and begins rising, but is 175 feet from full. Jan. 13 when the lake is 50 feet from full, the spillway is opened to release 15,000 cubic feet per second. Before Jan. 31, the lake topped 855 feet and releases fluctuate between 12,500 cfs and 20,000 cfs. (13)

Feb. 3-6: Multiple storms cause the DWR to increase releases up to 50,000 cfs. The lake's elevation is 849 feet. (13)

Feb. 7: The spillway releases increase, with a target of 65,000 cfs. However a large hole breaks open in the spillway floor about noon, about midway down, and the releases are stopped. With inflow in excess of 100,000 cfs, Lake Oroville begins to rise rapidly, topping 862 feet.

Feb. 8: With the lake continuing to rise, the DWR conducts test releases through the damaged spillway of 20,000 cfs to see how much erosion occurs. Lake level nears 875 feet with inflow still in excess of 100,000 cfs. With no other option, DWR begins releasing 35,000 cfs down the spillway, recognizing the bottom may wash away.

Feb. 9-10: The spillway releases increased to 65,000 cfs, then scaled back to 55,000 cfs. DWR says inflow has peaked and is declining, saying 55,000 cfs discharge should be enough to keep the emergency spillway from being used. Regardless, the water agency removes trees, rocks, and debris from the slope below the emergency spillway weir. PG&E removes power lines that are crossing the area that is at risk of being flooded if the water tops the emergency spillway weir. Lake level tops 890 feet, 10 feet from full. On Feb. 10 work continues below the emergency spillway weir and the Hyatt Powerplant is turned off as debris accumulates in Diversion Pool at the base of the spillway.

Feb. 11: At about 8 a.m., lake level tops 901 feet and begins spilling over the emergency spillway weir for the first time since the lake was completed in 1968. Main spillway releases continue at 55,000 cfs.

Feb. 12: The lake reaches 902.59 feet at 3 a.m. and begins to decline, but water is still running down the emergency spillway. At noon, DWR describes the situation as “stable.” However, at 3 p.m. a gash erodes into the hillside below the emergency spillway weir and begins cutting back toward the weir, raising the risk of a catastrophic failure that could release in excess of a quarter-million acre-feet of water down the Feather River. Releases down the main spillway are increased to 100,000 cfs to relieve pressure on the weir. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea orders immediate evacuation, as do sheriffs in Yuba and Sutter counties. All told, in excess of 180,000 people are told to leave their homes.

March 6: Despite repeated requests for information, DWR refuses to say how much has been spent during the emergency. State Assemblyman James Gallagher finally gets an answer: $4.7 million per day, or $100 million during February alone.

April 6: The state Department of Water Resources outlines its plans for repairs and replacement of the Oroville Dam spillway by Nov. 1, with the undamaged top chute as the priority.

April 25: For the first time since the crisis began, members of the state Legislature pepper key water leaders with questions about what happened, what will happen next, and what can be learned from it all. Despite the first legislative grilling, not much new was shared or learned.

April 27: Bill Croyle, the acting DWR director, answers questions and listens during a series of community meetings as residents affected by the spillway debacle step up to a microphone and are heard. A total of seven meetings are completed by May 11.

May 4: The independent board overseeing the repair of the spillway recommends the DWR change its priorities and focus on the damaged bottom chute rather than the top.[14]

April 2, 2019: Water flowed for the first time down the rebuilt spillway. Reconstruction of the main and emergency spillways cost $1.1 billion.[15].

Case Narrative[edit | edit source]

Completed in 1968, the Oroville Dam is the largest earth-fill dam in the United States. It is a vital part of the California State Water Project, which helps supply over 23 million people with water. After a number of storms in the area, a chunk of concrete in the dam’s spillway eroded and broke away. This caused faster erosion to the rest of the spillway, as well as the ground underneath and around it. The spillway flow had to be increased to prevent the risk of flooding on the dam and river, which provoked the evacuation of over 180,000 downstream residents.

In the aftermath of the failure, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conducted an investigation with the help of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials and the United States Society on Dams. The investigation took nine months to complete and concluded with a 584-page report that outlined not just the physical failures of the dam, but the human errors that led to the failure. The first human error was found in the design of the dam itself. Right after construction was completed, engineers noticed cracks in the slab of concrete underneath the spillway, but it was quickly dismissed as an issue that only needed ongoing repairs. The dam was also mischaracterized in multiple safety analyses as in good quality when the foundation was eroding.

The investigation also resulted in the discovery that the owner of the dam, as well as regulators, didn’t pay sufficient attention to the safety of the dam, and most spending on the safety was reactionary instead of preventative. Documents and data were not organized. Employees and engineers often didn’t receive the information they needed. The failure helped inform the rest of the dam industry about what to be aware of and the correct practices in ensuring dam safety.    

Oroville spillway damage

Policy Issues[edit | edit source]

Following the crisis, then-Governor Jerry Brown had to declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard to assist with the evacuation effort. He also activated the State Operations Center to its highest level and requested a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration before announcing new policy proposals to boost dam safety and further protect the state from floods.[16]

One of these announcements was a $437 million investment in “near-term flood control and emergency response actions.” Brown’s second announcement was to begin requiring action plans and flood inundation maps for dams in the state. He then announced an effort to “enhance” California’s dam inspection program before requesting federal action in letters to the US Army Corps of Engineers and Secretaries of Defense, the Interior, and Homeland Security. [17]

FEMA runs the National Dam Safety Program (NDSA) works to promote dam safety nationwide. [18] The High Hazard Potential Dams Program provides $22 million a year to states for dam repairs, including $11 million this year from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. [19]  Two advisory committees currently oversee dam operations in the United States. FEMA-chaired ICODS (the Interagency Committee on Dam Safety) encourages the development of efficient programs to maintain and improve dam safety nationwide. The National Dam Safety Review Board (NDSRB) sets safety goals and examines the effects of federal policy on dams; an analysis of their operations may be necessary to prevent Oroville disasters in the future.[20]

During the dam rebuild, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) was suspended but NMFS (the National Marine Fisheries Service) tried to slow down the process citing the Endangered Species Act. NFMS requested that inspections and construction only occur at night but Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) strongly condemned these practices in his letter to then-President Trump regarding the Oroville incident that happened in his district. [21]

In 2019, FEMA approved paying $205 million but not the remaining $306 million needed to rebuild the dam spillway. Since the spillway failed due to poor construction practices, FEMA was not responsible for covering the entire cost. Federal law allows FEMA to reimburse up to 75% of the construction costs but FEMA decided only to cover 40% of the cost. When the State or California announced plans to sue FEMA over this lack of reimbursement, the Trump administration reversed course and covered the additional $300 million [22]

Takeaways[edit | edit source]

Following the spillway failure, there’s been increased discussion about the state of dams in America. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave dams in the US a ‘D’ in 2017 collectively on their annual infrastructure report card. [23] Another major preventable dam failure occurred in Midland, Michigan in 2020 - raising concerns about the state of dams in America once again [24]

An investigation found that the Oroville spillway failure was caused by a faulty construction process. The main spillway was constructed on “poor quality rock” and the spillway designer had never built a spillway before. Multiple cracks had formed over the years, allowing water to break through on February 7, 2017. [25]    

The US Army Corps of Engineers and Independent Forensic Report both came to the same conclusion that design flaws contributed to this dam failure. The spillway that failed was built on unstable bedrock and the spillway’s efficacy had never been tested. [26]

The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) was also blamed for the failure, as the department was “significantly overconfident and complacent about the integrity of its State Water Project civil infrastructure, including dams.” The dam structure was weak, as the structure depended on thin concrete anchors that were anchored into bedrock and steel. One expert with the National Academy of Engineering suggested that the culture of the CDWR should either be changed or that the department should clean house. Governor Brown chose not to clean house, so it may take a while for this neglectful culture to change at CDWR. [27]

Even in 2020, a report found that despite hundreds of millions of dollars of repairs, there were still vulnerabilities in the dam:

  • Erosion could still flood the Hyatt Powerplant
  • Structural issues could prevent operators from opening the gate
  • The headworks structure could still fail, releasing uncontrolled amounts of water
  • A rare storm could cause a breach
  • Internal erosion could still occur near the top of the dam

Additional investments of up to $2 billion must be made to address all of these vulnerabilities.[28]

An image of the Oroville Dam in 2017 immediately following its failure

Climate change was also cited as contributing to the Oroville crisis as well. Atmospheric rivers - the phenomena that drenched Northern California on the day of the dam failure in 2017 - are expected to become more and more common as the globe warms. Dam planners and operators’ mistakes will be exposed further if action is not taken to ensure that the process of building and inspecting dams is more comprehensive.[29]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

How can disasters like the Orville dam be prevented in the future?

What regulatory measures can be put in place to prevent human error?

How should proper mechanisms be implemented to allow concerns from organizations like Friends of the River to be taken into account for dam safety?

  1. “Program Funding.” Program Funding. Accessed March 20, 2023.,ending%20September%2030%2C%202022).&text=President%20Biden's%20FY%202023%20budget,billion%20for%20the%20GPS%20program.
  2. Description & Background. ASDSO Lessons Learned. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  3. Oroville dam. Water Education Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  4. Dam engineering | (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  5. Types of earthfill dams - applications and advantages. The Constructor. (2018, August 29). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  6. Types of earthfill dams - applications and advantages. The Constructor. (2018, August 29). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  7. California, S. of. (n.d.). About. Department of Water Resources. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  8. Hydropower. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. (2023, January 25). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  9. Local disaster recovery managers responsibilities. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  10. California, S. of. (n.d.). Division of safety of dams. Department of Water Resources. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  11. Friends of the river – about us: Friends of the river. Friends of the River | The Voice of California's Rivers since 1973. (2022, March 25). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  12. Los Angeles Times. (2018, September 6). Oroville dam repair costs soar past $1 Billion. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  13. California, S. of. (2021, February 1). FEMA releases additional reimbursement funds for Oroville spillways repairs and Reconstruction. Department of Water Resources. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  14. Dan Reidel, C. E.-R. (2017, May 18). Oroville dam timeline: 100 Days of Drama. East Bay Times. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  15. Oroville Dam Spillway used for first time since evacuation crisis | the ... (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  16. California, S. of. (n.d.). Governor brown issues emergency order to help response to situation at Oroville dam. Governor Edmund G Brown Jr. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  17. California, S. of. (n.d.). Governor Brown takes action to bolster dam safety and Repair Transportation and water infrastructure. Governor Edmund G Brown Jr. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  18. Dam safety. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  19. High hazard potential dams grant awards. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  20. Advisory committees. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  21. Lamalfa urges president Trump to help facilitate Oroville dam spillway repair. Congressman Doug LaMalfa. (2017, March 14). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  22. FEMA tells California it will pay for Oroville dam repairs | the ... (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  23. Policy statements. ASCE American Society of Civil Engineers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  24. Jeltema, B. R. (2022, October 4). Final report says Edenville Dam failure was preventable, casts broad blame. ABC12 WJRT-TV. Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  25. Rogers, P. (2019, March 9). Oroville dam: Trump Administration denies California Repair Funds. The Mercury News. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  26. Guidelines for dam safety. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2023, from
  27. Los Angeles Times. (2018, January 6). Human error played a role in Oroville dam spillway failure, report finds. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  28. Herbaugh, A. (2020, November 10). Report: Oroville Dam Safe, but still vulnerable. KRCR. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from
  29. Monroe, R. (2022, March 2). Climate change identified as contributor to Oroville Dam Spillway Incident. Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Retrieved March 26, 2023, from

Finnish Underground

This casebook is a case study on The Finnish Underground by Francisco Ortiz, Ben Geary, and Mahid Sheikh as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-003 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-002 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Spring 2023 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Shinkansen High Speed Rail case study. Under the instruction of Professor Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Finnish Underground refers to the many underground infrastructure projects that Finland has focused on since the late 1960's. These projects began as civil defense shelters to protect citizens from Finland's neighbor Russia but, have expanded to public utilities, public transport, and many cultural hot spots. This case study focuses mainly on the underground of Helsinki, as it is the most developed and the most interconnected system of underground projects in Finland. Construction of the vast underground network began in the 1980s and continues to this day. Helsinki now has almost 10 million square meters (33 million square feet) of underground spaces and tunnels that conceal a subterranean art museum, church, swimming hall, shops and even a karting track inside a civil defense shelter []. To connect these places, there are underground metro lines, bus routes, and pedestrian paths, all of which are equipped to serve as bomb shelters should the need arise.

The majority (around 85%) of civil defense shelters are privately owned.[1] This is due to the Civil Defense Act of 1958 and the later Rescue Act of 2011 that made building owners responsible for creating civil defense shelters. The construction of civil defense shelters in Finland is allocated to the largest buildings based on a risk assessment. Under the Rescue Act, a civil defense shelter must be built when the floor area of the building exceeds 1,200 square meters and the building is used as a permanent dwelling or workplace or is otherwise permanently occupied. In industrial buildings and those used for manufacturing, storage and meetings, the floor area limit is 1,500 square meters.[2] Building owners must also keep regular maintenance on there shelters, have their equipment and shelter inspected at least every 10 years, and be able to fully convert it from whatever secondary use it is being used for to a civil defense shelter. The Finnish government allows civil defense shelters to be used for storage and other uses, as long as they can be made fully operational as shelters within 72 hours.[2]

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

  • End of the Russo-Finnish War and Signing of the Treaty of Moscow 1939-1940
  • The Ministry of Interior, under the Civil Defense Act of 1958, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of civil defense shelters 1958
  • Temppeliaukio "Rock" Church is constructed as one of the first landmark underground projects in Finland 1969
  • The Helsinki City Council approves a set of planning principles for an Underground Master Plan 4
  • The Rescue Act is put in place to further legislate the responsibility to develop private civil defense shelters, along with many other provisions 2011
  • First Underground Master Plan (UMP) for Helsinki is put into place 2011
  • Most recent revision to the UMP is put in place 2021

Narrative[edit | edit source]

Following World War Two, specifically the Russo-Finnish War (also known as the Winter War) from 1939 to 1940, Finland was in a worrying position in terms of their national security. The Soviets took about 6% of Finnish land in the Treaty of Moscow and, moving into the Cold War, continued to threaten Finland. In an effort to maintain their security, Finland declared that they would not join NATO (The North Atlantic Treaty Organization). This left them as the border between the Soviet Union and NATO until the Soviet Union fell and the Cold War ended. During this time, Finland began its program of civil defense shelters. The underground shelters were built all around the country. Civil defense shelters provide protection for the population particularly against a military threat in areas where people normally move, live and go to work. Civil defense shelters protect against the effects of explosions and splinters, collapse of buildings, blasts, radiation and substances hazardous to health.[1] The Finnish government built many of these shelters near large public areas where people may not be able to find shelter otherwise and made their metro stations able to serve as civil defense shelters[3]. In 2022, Finland had 50,500 civil defense shelters with space for a total of 4.8 million people. The majority of the shelters (approximately 85%) are private, reinforced concrete shelters in individual buildings.[1]

As the threat of war became less and less of a concern, the Finnish government still wanted to use the vast amount of underground space they had built up for defense. Private shelters were mainly used for storage, while public shelters were used as sports halls, metro stations, and parking space.[1] Helsinki, the capital of Finland, took this push underground in stride. Believed to be one of the only cities with an underground master plan, Helsinki has developed underground infrastructure that is uncommon in other cities. This includes underground power stations, cold water reservoirs, utility tunnels, heat pumps, etc. all of which are interconnected through a series of tunnels that go throughout the city [Development for Urban Underground Space in Helsinki]. In addition to infrastructure, there are also many recreational, cultural sites, and public utilities, including but not limited to[4]:

  • Amos Rex - This underground annex of the Amos Anderson Art Museum is famous for its weaving of an above ground plaza and underground art museum. It opened in 2018 and is one of Helsinki's most popular attractions.
  • Temppeliaukio "Rock" Church - An underground church that was built in 1969 and represents one of Helsinki's earliest underground constructions. It hosts regular services and serves as a concert venue due to the unique acoustics of its bedrock walls.
  • The Ring Rail Line - This metro line connects Helsinki Airport and the adjacent Aviapolis commercial district to the Helsinki commuter rail network. The Ring Rail Line was inaugurated in 2015 and stretches 18 kilometers.
  • Kamppi Shopping Centre - This shopping center in downtown Helsinki also serves as a hub for an underground bus route that serves as another form of public transport. There are also underground pedestrian paths that connect to other shopping centers.
  • Itäkeskus Swimming Hall - This civil defense shelter serves as both a gym and swimming hall for around a 1000 visitors at a time and around 400,000 people a year. It can also be converted to a shelter that can support up to 3800 people.

Key Actors and Institutions[edit | edit source]

Ministry of Interior

  • Since 1958, the Finnish Ministry of Interior has been responsible for the construction, inspection, and regulation of civil defense shelters. They provide detailed information for shelter requirements, including necessary provisions, and a detailed map of closest shelters to make sure as many people have access as possible[2]
  • Under the Rescue Act of 2011, the Ministry of Interior also made building owners responsible for creating private civil defense shelters if their building was large enough. These private shelters are able to be used for storage, recreation, and other uses during peace time. Under the 72 hour provision, these private shelters, as well as the larger public shelters, must be able to fully convert back to civil defense shelters within 72 hours of an alert (such as a natural disaster or armed conflict).[2]

Helsinki City Council

  • The Helsinki City Council is responsible for the Underground Master Plan (UMP), as well as planning how the city as a whole will develop. The new underground master plan promotes a more diverse use of the underground facilities, more systematic utilization of facilities constructed in the bedrock and better coordination between different types of operations.[5]

Helsinki Real Estate Department

  • The Real Estate Department’s Geotechnical Division qualified the areas and elevation levels in Helsinki that are suitable for the construction of large, hall-like spaces. They been the main designer responsible for the preliminary and construction-phase planning required for the rock construction of the utility tunnels, the underground wastewater treatment plant and the treated wastewater discharge tunnel. The facilities designed by the Geotechnical Division include tunnel lines, halls, vertical shafts and the necessary access tunnels.[6]

Funding and Financing[edit | edit source]

While much of the financing information is not available for much of the Finnish Underground network, there are a few publicly available measures of its costs. The average price per cubic meter of tunnels and underground spaces in Finland is EUR 100/m3 (including excavation, rock reinforcement, grouting and underdrainage). The reason for the low cost of tunneling in Finland is due to the practice of not using cast concrete lining in hard rock conditions, effective D&B technology and extensive experience of working in urban areas.[7] Additional expenses are saved since multiple users are using the same spaces and public facilities. Temperatures of underground can be regulated easier than in the surface.

The raw water for the Helsinki region comes from Lake Päijänne (to the north of Helsinki) via a rock tunnel measuring more than 100 km. Its main investor and designer was the metropolitan area Water Company PSV. Tunnel construction started in 1972 and was completed in 1982 at a cost of some EUR 200 million (adjusted for inflation in 2011).[6]

The Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant is the central plant for treating wastewater from six towns and cities. It is less than 10 km from the center of Helsinki. The plant treats 280,000 m3 of wastewater from about 750,000 inhabitants daily. The plant was completed with a cost of approximately EUR 180 million and began operating in 1994. This wastewater plant replaced 10 smaller, above-ground wastewater treatment plants, freeing up land for other uses.[6] To reduce costs and to make maintenance easier, extensive planning was implemented in the construction of the underground bunkers. Rather than having pipes and lines being buried underground/beneath facilities, they are instead built in pre-made tunnels. These same tunnels serve as passageways to make commute times shorter for both civilians and crew members. The tunnels are also built to last for at least 1 decade, needing minimal maintenance.[8]

Other cities in Finland have also began to build underground bunkers or facilities. Their costs aren’t known, but in the city of Tampere, a parking cave for almost 1000 cars began construction in 2009 and ended in 2012. The cost to build the parking cave was 75 million euros.[8] The Capital of northern Finland, Oulu, has also began underground construction, but costs aren't publicly available.

Lessons/ Takeaways[edit | edit source]

The Finnish Underground is a case study about the benefits of underground development. Using its natural resources, and its flat topography, Finland has moved much of its infrastructure underground. This has allowed for development on the land that would otherwise be used by water treatment and power plants. Public transport, including metro, bus, and pedestrian paths, are also underground, which allows for green spaces and smaller roads. The UMP allows for further development of underground car parks and other infrastructure, which further frees up space. The push of utilities underground not only serves to free up space, it also allows for better interconnectedness of utilities through maintenance tunnels that are separate from general traffic.

These underground projects, as well as the adoption of an UMP, would be a benefit to cities around the world. This push underground could reduce urban sprawl by pulling utilities from the urban extent to under the city. Many cities have some forms of infrastructure underground, but it is an untapped field that could be developed even more. With the increase in severity of natural disasters and weather events in general, putting utilities underground may also protect them from damage and protect the network from disruption.

However, these same underground projects also neglect a portion of the population who don't live in or near cities. Rural people, and to some extent, suburban people have inadequate access to these shelters. About 14% of the Finnish population (which is about 800,000 people) do not have proper access to the underground shelters.[9]

Future Impact[edit | edit source]

The future impact of the Finnish Underground seems bright. The Helsinki UMP has rock-resources to develop further underground projects and has plans for an ambitious tunnel project between Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia. The planned tunnel linking Helsinki and Tallinn would cost some 16 billion euros to build, according to a report published in Tallinn. The tunnel would be 215 meters below sea level at its deepest. Each day the report envisages the Helsinki-Tallinn link would have capacity for some 40 passenger trains, 11 car trains, 17 lorry transporters and 3 freight trains. The proposed tunnel’s track, tunnel and stations would cost between 13.8 billion and 20 billion euros to build and is proposed to start construction in 2025.[10]

In terms of border security and the need for civil defense shelters, Finland is in a less favorable position. As of April 4th 2023, Finland has officially joined NATO. This breaks the long standing neutrality that Finland has held to appease its neighbor Russia. After the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Finnish citizens' support for joining NATO increased dramatically.[11] Finland's network of civil defense shelters may need to be put to the test if Russia continues its outward aggression towards its neighbors.

Finnish Underground Sustainable[edit | edit source]

The Helsinki underground bunkers can house the entire population of the city at 630,000 in the event of an emergency. Estimates put that the shelter can occupy a maximum of 850,000 to 900,000 people. Every bunker has enough food and water for up to 2 weeks. In the event of an attack, the bunkers can withstand a nuclear bomb (up to 6 bars of pressure). A 2nd door also protects against chemical attacks. Bombs can be dropped above, all while children play happily below ground.[12]

A region where some of the Finnish Underground is being built is called the Greater Helsinki area. In Helsinki there is a population of 1.3 million people. The land is flat, and the bedrock in Helsinki is ideal for building underground, also only 6.4% of the land area of Helsinki is unnamed rock reservations without a purpose. This means that there is a lot of room for an underground network. There is also a plan to expand the Finnish Underground system quite a bit according to the picture.

Finnish Underground

In order to have a sustainable underground area, we need to get perspectives from “stakeholders, communities, geoscientists, engineers, urban planners”(Loretta von der Tann et al, 2021). All of these groups' perspectives are vital to the success of underground projects. When building an underground space, we have to clear it out first to make it usable.

Geotechnical engineers and geoscientists need to be more upfront on talking about challenges that come with the geology of the area to help better inform people working on the project. Because of this issue some buildings are not cost efficient and require more maintenance and are not as sustainable as they could potentially be. Also, we need to keep in mind that  underground space is a non-renewable resource and must be used wisely.

Maps & Diagrams[edit | edit source]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  • Will this influence other countries or cities to build their own underground cities?
  • What utilities could you see moving underground in the future?
  • Do you think that investing into large-scale underground projects is worth it?
  • Are large underground bunkers really feasible against conventional invasions?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d "Civil defence shelters - Ministry of the Interior". Sisäministeriö. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  2. a b c d "Civil defence | Rescue services". Finnish Rescue Services. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  3. "Civil defence shelters -". Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  4. "Underground Helsinki". My Helsinki. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  5. "Underground Master Plan". Helsingin kaupunki. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  6. a b c Vahaaho, Ilkka (2013). "0-LAND USE: UNDERGROUND RESOURCES AND MASTER PLAN IN HELSINKI" (PDF). The Society for Rock Mechanics & Engineering Geology (Singapore): 29–42. {{cite journal}}: line feed character in |title= at position 38 (help)
  7. Vähäaho, Ilkka (2016-05). "An introduction to the development for urban underground space in Helsinki". Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology. 55: 324–328. doi:10.1016/j.tust.2015.10.001. ISSN 0886-7798. {{cite journal}}: Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. a b Vähäaho, Ilkka (2014-10-01). "Underground space planning in Helsinki". Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. 6 (5): 387–398. doi:10.1016/j.jrmge.2014.05.005. ISSN 1674-7755.
  9. "Rural population (% of total population) - Finland | Data". Retrieved 2023-04-12.
  10. "Report: Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel would cost 16 billion euros, journey time 30 minutes, tickets 18 euros each way". News. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  11. "Finland Officially Joins NATO. Here's What You Need to Know". Time. 2023-04-04. Retrieved 2023-04-10.
  12. Keane, Daniel (2022-05-26). "Finland reveals underground bunkers which can 'withstand nuclear bomb'". Evening Standard. Retrieved 2023-04-12.


Shinkansen High Speed Rail

Shinkansen High Speed Rail


This casebook is a case study on the Shinkansen by Alani Hall, Thomas Cross, Dorothy Raymond, and Tyler Mooney as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-001 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2021 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook. Under the instruction of Prof. Jonathan Gifford.


Summary[edit | edit source]

The Shinkansen is a Japanese high-speed train system. It is operated by four companies: East Japan Railway Company (JR East), West Japan Railway Company (JR West), Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), and Japan Railways Group (JR East) (Sato et al., 1). The Tokaido Shinkansen route between Tokyo and Osaka was the first Shinkansen line to open in 1964 (Sato et al., 1). The Shinkansen is well-known for its dependability, timeliness, and efficiency. The system is so reliable that bullet train delays of more than five minutes are uncommon. Furthermore, Shinkansen has had a tremendous environmental impact by reducing traffic congestion and pollution. The Shinkansen runs on dedicated tracks and can achieve speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph), making it one of the world's fastest train systems (Nonaka et al., 4). There are 22 Shinkansen lines in service as of March 2015, with intentions to build more in the future. The Shinkansen has been an enormous success, transporting over 10 billion people since its inception and becoming an integral part of Japanese culture and society (Smil, par 25).

The high-speed rail system has aided in connecting various sections of the country, making travel and commuting more accessible and faster for individuals. The Shinkansen has also received accolades for its safety record, with no fatal accidents happening in its more than 50 years of service. The Shinkansen's achievement has prompted other countries to consider developing their high-speed rail lines. China has just begun running its high-speed rail lines, and other nations, such as South Korea and Taiwan, are preparing to build their own. The Shinkansen is still an essential aspect of Japanese culture and civilization, and it will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the country's transportation system for many years (Yee et al., 6).

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

Pre Construction[edit | edit source]

1872, October 14th- Japan’s first railway opens linking Tokyo’s Shimbashi District and the port city of Yokohama. [2]

1906: The government of Imperial Japan enacts the Railway Nationalization Act of 1906. All railways are nationalized and consolidated under the Railway Board of the state Ministry of Transport over the course of the year.[2]

1949, June 1st: Under Allied occupation and General Douglas MacArthur recommendations Japan’s government reorganizes all state owned railways into the Japanese National Railways (JNR) public corporation. The company remained semi-autonomous under the government of Japan.[2]

Development & Construction of The First Shinkansen Line[edit | edit source]

1957, May: The first proposals of the Shinkansen are revealed at a public lecture hosted by the JNR-owned Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI). [2]

1958, December: The government of Japan approves the proposal of the first Shinkansen line, The Tokaido, linking Tokyo and Osako. The project is headed by Shinji Sogo, president of JNR and Hideo Shima, chief engineer. [2]

1959, April 20th: Work begins on the Tokaido Line, with the deadline set to open in 5 years time. [2]

1963: Due to cost overruns both Shinji Sogo and Hideo Shima resign from their respective positions. [2]

1964, October 1st: The Shinkansen Tokaido line is opened, marking the first line of the Shinkansen railway network. [2]

Expansions & Operations To Current Day[edit | edit source]

1969: Japan’s Government Cabinet approves the 1969 Second Comprehensive National Development Plan to expand the Shinkansen network by 7,200 km. [3]

1970 May: Nationwide Shinkansen Railway Development Law passed by The Cabinet of Japan.[3]

1972, March: San'yo Shinkansen (Shin-Osaka-Okayama line) opens to the public.[3]

1973: Five additional Shinkansen lines and expansions are approved the Tohoku (Morioka–Shin-Aomori line), Hokkaido, Hokuriku, Kyushu (Kagoshima route), and Kyushu (Nagasaki route) lines. [3]

1975, March: San'yo Shinkansen (Okayama-Hakata line) opens to the public.[3]

1982, June: Tohoku Shinkan (Omiya-Morioka line) opens to the public.[3]

1982, July: The Ad Hoc Commission on Administrative Reform recommends suspending construction of new Shinkansen lines due to JNR’s worsening financial situation.[3]

1982, September: The Cabinet of Japan suspends Shinkansen development based on the Commission's findings. [3]

1982, November: Joetsu Shinkansen (Omiya-Niigata line) opens to the public.[3]

1985, March: Tohoku Shinkansen (Ueno-Omiya line) opens to the public.[3]

1987, January: Cabinet of Japan lifts freeze on building new rail lines due to support of the public for Shinkansen development. [3]

1987, April: Due to rising issues of mismanagement and debt, JNR is divided into 6 separate entities. JR Central, JR East and JR West, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku and JR Hokkaido. [3]

1988, March: Tsugara-Kaikyo Line opens to the public. [3]

1988, April: Seto Ohasi Bridge opens, connecting Honshu to Shikoku, linking all four main Japanese islands by rail. [3]

1991, June: Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo-Ueno line) opens to the public. [3]

1997, October: Hokuriku Shinkansen (Tokyo-Nagano line) opens to the public. [3]

2002, December: Tohoku Shinkansen (Morioka-Hachinohe line) opens to the public. [3]

2004, March: Kyushu Shinkansen (Shin-Yatsushiro-Kagoshima-Chuo line) opens to the public. [3]

2010, December: Tohoku Shinkansen (Tokyo-Shin-Aomori line) opens to the public. [4]

2015, March: Hokuriku Shinkansen (Takasaki-Kanazawa line) opens to the public. [5]

2016, March: Hokkaido Shinkansen (Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto line) opens to the public. [6]

2022, September: Nishi Kyushu Shinkansen (Takeo Onsen/Nagasaki line) opens to the public. [7]

Narrative[edit | edit source]

The Beginnings of Railroad Development In Japan[edit | edit source]

During the Meiji Period (1868-1912) Imperial Japan began the process of rapid industrialization to face the competition of its western rivals. As part of this process the need for a comprehensive transportation system to link the country was realized. However Japan's geography made this difficult. Composed of the four main islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku Japan stretches 2,000 km of primarily mountainous (73%) terrain with interspaced heavy forest. [3] The first railway in Japan opened on the 14th of October 1872, connecting the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama.[3] To deal with the tight restraints of the mountainous terrain Japanese railways adopted the narrow gauge (3'/6" width) rail track that was better adapted to tighter turns than comparatively wider gauges. [3]

The First Shinkansen[edit | edit source]

Post World War II Japan was faced with the issues of upgrading old infrastructure as well as rebuilding after the destruction of Allied bombings. In 1957 the Government of Japan began hearings to decide the course of Japanese infrastructure development on the aging Tokiado line, which formed the backbone of Japanese transportation. [2] [3]

There was a growing thought in Japan among transportation engineers and politicians that rail transportation was outdated and would soon be replaced by air and highway transportation technologies favored by western countries. [2] However the president of JNR, Shinji Sogo, and Hideo Shima, chief engineer of JNR, believed that rail technology could be improved upon and be a viable competitor.[2] The Railway Transpiration Research Institute (A think tank of JNR) published a proposal in 1957 that they could create a new type of rail transportation, using innovative technologies such as computer controlled cabins, new types of electrified tracks, and aerodynamically designed trains. This proposal stated that this new train could make the 550km trip from Tokyo and Osaka in under three hours by a fully electric train.[2]

In 1958 the Government of Japan accepted the plans of the JNR to construct this first Shinkansen line they proposed. Work was scheduled to take 5 years with a budget of 200 million yen, less than half of the final cost. [2] The budget was intentionally underbid to persuade the government to accept the plan, and in 1963 both Shinji Sogo and Hideo Shima resigned from their positions in the JNR once the budget shortfalls were discovered.[2] In 1964 the Tokaido Shinkansen opened, cutting down transit time from Tokyo to Osaka from 6 hours to 3 as promised by the 1957 proposal. [3]The train line was 515 km long and ran with an initial top speed of 210 km/hr.[8] The track was a fully electrified standard gauge rail (4'/8.5" width) with a catenary wire system supplying power of 25,000 V.[3] To increase power efficiently each train car of the Shinkansen is electrified instead of having a single engine pulling the length of cars. [3]

The line was initially scheduled for 60 departures a day, with 2 Series 0 trains running concurrently; one train stopped at only major stations while stopped at every station . [8] The line proved to be extremely popular and served its 100 millionth passenger only 2 years after its initial opening. [2] This growing popularity spurred the JNR and Japanese Government to increase the frequency of departures by adding new train engines as well as commissioning the creation of new rail lines to link other cities into the system.

Future Developments[edit | edit source]

In 1969 the Second Comprehensive National Development Plan was created, tasking the JNR to expand its network across Japan with a combined track length of 7,200 km. [3] Work progressed over the next 2 decades though the JNR begins to face issues with growing debt and the inability to fulfill the requirements of the National Development Plan. [3] In 1987 JNR was fully privatized and divided into the sperate companies of JR Central, JR East and JR West, JR Kyushu, JR Shikoku and JR Hokkaido. [3] Since this time these companies have expanded the railways, created new models of railcar, and improved the reliability and safety records of the Shinkansen. Currently there are eight separate rail lines crossing Japan, with more being built every year to meet the increased demand of Japan's economy and people. These routes are the Tokaido, San'yo, Tohoku, Joestu, Hokuriku, Kyushu, Nishi Kyushu, and Hokkaido. [5][3][6][1]

Key Actors and Institutions[edit | edit source]

Public Sector Actors and Institutions[edit | edit source]

- Japan National Railways [18]

Private Sector Actors and Institutions[edit | edit source]

- East Japan Railway Company [17]

- Central Japan Railway Company [17]

- West Japan Railway Company [17]

- Japan Railways Group (Sato et al., 1)

Funding & Financing[edit | edit source]

The Shinkansen was initially built and operated by Japanese National Railways (JNR), a state-owned railway company. JNR was privatized in 1987, and the Shinkansen network was divided among the new private railway companies. The government continues to invest in the Shinkansen, with the MLIT providing funding for new lines and stations. However, the private sector also plays a significant role in financing the Shinkansen, with the different railway companies investing their resources into the network.

The Shinkansen is operated by Japan Railways Group (JR Group), a private company created in 1987 when the Japanese National Railways were privatized (Tomikawa et al., par 1). The Japanese government owns the JR Group and private investors. The government owns approximately 50% of the company, with private institutional and individual investors owning the remaining shares. The Japan Railways Group (JR Group) includes Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central), East Japan Railway Company (JR East), West Japan Railway Company (JR West), and South West Japan Railway Company (JR-West) (Sato et al., 1). The government also owns a majority stake in JR Central and JR East, which operate the Tokaido and Tohoku Shinkansen lines (Ali and Eliasson, 9). The remaining Shinkansen operators are privately owned. The Shinkansen is a profitable venture.

The Shinkansen is financed mostly through government investment and subsidies. Fare revenue only covers a small portion of the operating costs, with the rest coming from other sources such as advertising and leasing office space in Shinkansen stations. For instance, an advertiser may pay to have their product featured on Shinkansen's website or in its app. In exchange for this exposure, the advertiser agrees to pay a certain amount of money to Shinkansen. Shinkansen is also financed through sponsorships whereby a company may agree to sponsor Shinkansen in exchange for having their logo displayed on the website or app or in other marketing materials. The Shinkansen is a for-profit enterprise, with operating costs such as staff salaries, maintenance, and energy consumption offset by fare revenue. In the 2018 fiscal year, the four Shinkansen operators generated a combined operating profit of ¥206.8 billion (US$1.9 billion). This was up from ¥138.1 billion (US$1.3 billion) in the previous fiscal year. Ridership on the Shinkansen has been steadily increasing, reaching a record high of 151 million passengers in the 2018 fiscal year (Sato et al., 2). Fares have also been rising, resulting in increased revenue for the operators.

However, the Japanese government provides significant financial support for the construction and operation of the Shinkansen through subsidies and low-interest loans. The rail service subsidies amounted to over ¥700 billion (US$6.6 billion) in 2019 (Baruya 23). This subsidy covers a portion of the operating and maintenance costs, allowing the Shinkansen to function as a for-profit venture. Ticket prices are set to cover the remaining costs, with fares generally ranging from ¥10,000 (US$92) to ¥20,000 (US$184) for a one-way trip (Chou et al. 1). For instance, the government subsidizes JR East to the tune of ¥80 billion (around US$760 million) annually. This subsidy covers around a third of JR East's operating costs and allows the company to keep fares low. In addition, the government has invested billions of yen in constructing new Shinkansen lines, such as the Hokkaido Shinkansen and the Kyushu Shinkansen. The cost of building the new maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya is estimated to be 9 trillion yen (around 80 billion USD). The Japanese government provides about 5 trillion yen (approximately 45 billion USD) of this funding, with the private sector raising the remaining 4 trillion yen (around 35 billion USD) (Chou et al. 1).

Institutional Arrangements[edit | edit source]

As the 1940s were coming to an end, development of transportation was at the forefront in the national agenda. Japan National Railways was the initial, government-led institution to tackle transportation in the region, during this era. However, an initiative to improve management, operation, and financing arose as these areas lacked in performance under this administration. These issues along with the additional need for global innovation kickstarted the privatization of the railway business in Japan in 1987. Japan National Railways was soon dissolved as private companies took on the reforms that called for progression. [18]

When railway transportation went from the public sector to the private sector in 1987, the Joetsu Shinkansen line, Tohoku Shinkansen line, Tokaido Shinkansen line, and Sanyo Shinkansen line were affected. [14] The East Japan Railway Company acquired the Joetsu and Tohoku lines. The Central Japan Railway Company acquired the Tokaido line. The West Japan Railway Company acquired the Sanyo line. [17]

Eleven private companies took on the responsibility to reform railway transportation in Japan; however, the initial four private entities have significant influence. Notably, the Central Japan Railway Company operates and maintains the Tokaido Shinkansen that travels through the capital city, Tokyo. [18]

The Central Japan Railway Company was among the private companies to partake in railway business reform in 1987. It is noted the April 1, 1987, marked its official creation. The company is keen on ensuring safety and reliability is maintained on the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Chuo Shinkansen. Note, the Tokaido Shinkansen and the Chuo Shinkansen in the areas of Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo—transportation hubs. The ESG management style is how the Central Japan Railway Company seeks to maintain and progress travel in these important areas. This approach incorporates economic activities that facilitate profit and encourages growth in society. Safety, improved services, efficiency, environmental consideration, and investment allows for better infrastructure, modernization, and support for local businesses. [18]

Lessons Learned/Takeaways[edit | edit source]

Key Technological Advancements[edit | edit source]

Automatic Train Control was an innovation that prevent collision. The third edition Automatic Train Control system consists of a brake control system. It is also known as the ATC-NS. The system can apply the appropriate amount of brake stoppage. Tokaido Shinkansen was the first line to experience the Automatic Train Control system. Since the 1960s, the advancement in this system grew. The 1980s brought additional capabilities with a monitoring system. The monitoring system was crucial in strengthening the communications between the train and system. [7]

The superconducting maglev system supports how the Shinkansen moves along. Its humble beginnings in 1990 would push this technology into its current use and existence. This system uses magnetic force to hover the train above the track. The coils on the track and the superconducting magnet on the train create this affect. The affects of using this system go further. The affects extend to the Shinkansen's ability to handle high speeds, natural disasters, and provide safe service. Also, the future superconducting maglev system is evident as the new Series L0 version is being tested. These tests suggest it could extend to commercial use. [18]

Speed[edit | edit source]

The Shinkansen's high-speed trains, or bullet trains, are able to achieve a top speed of 320km/hr.

The Shinkansen's SC Maglev exceeded two previous records for rail vehicles in 2015, achieving a top speed of 603km/hr.

Reliability & Safety[edit | edit source]

The Shinkansen is well known for holding an impressive safety record, in the 58 years since the debut of its Tōkaidō line there has been not a single reported on board passenger fatality caused by train derailment or collision, even during occurrences of train derailment caused by frequent earthquakes and other natural disasters, a record that the government and JRC boasts.[1][8]

Despite this record, there have been numerous casualties involving the Shinkansen trains in the nearly six decades of operations, just not caused by train derailment or collision. Shinkansen passenger accidents have occurred occasionally in its years of operations such as injuries from closing doors and fatalities, reported by police authorities as suicides, with a recent September 2022 accident of an individual who broke on to the tracks at Toyohashi Station of the Tokaido Shinkansen line who was killed by the passing Nozomi No. 229 train, normal operations continued later that day following a temporary suspension.[9][10][11]

Despite the very rare freak accidents and the slightly more common derailments due to an earthquake and blizzard conditions, the Shinkansen remains a remarkably safe for passengers and is a popular mode of transportation with a ridership that has now reached 1 million passengers per day.[8] The Shinkansen is so reliable that the average delay time is 0.9 minutes, this number includes delays caused by natural disasters.[1] The Shinkansen is able to be so punctial, despite Japan's frequent earthquakes and typhoons, because of its earthquake warning systems that allows trains to stop safely; the trains are also supported with many specially designed high-speed rail tracks, automatic train control (ATC), and automated train schedule management, that ensure that the Shinkansen trains always run on time.[12]

Impacts[edit | edit source]

Economic[edit | edit source]

Prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2019, the entire Shinkansen network saw a total passenger ridership of 574 million passengers during 2018. That same year, the Shinkansen accumulated approximately ¥2,861.4 trillion in combined operating and transport revenues.[13] Revenues and ridership began to dip during 2020 and would decrease sharply the following year as a result of Japan's COVID-19 policies limiting the public's travel. Despite this, the Shinkansen is projected to make ¥2,097.0 trillion in combined operating and transport revenues.[13]

Prior to the privatization and break-up of the Japanese National Railways (JNR) in 1987, the Shinkansen had four operating lines: the Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the San'yō Shinkansen, the Tōhoku Shinkansen and the Jōetsu Shinkansen. Japan's progress in industrializing and infrastructure development is reflected in the four early lines and in the prefectures these lines operated in; their municipal finances, for those cities with a shinkansen station saw an increase of about 155% between 1980 and 1993, compared to the national average of about 110% and 75% increases for those cities near the Tohoku Shinkansen without a shinkansen.[14] This period is important as the effects of Japan's industrialization, and in particular the Shinkansen's development, become clearer and show an apparent gap that begins to grow between cities with shinkansen stations and cities without. Japan's second largest city, Yokohama, was even affected greatly just from the fastest train on the line, Nozomi, not stopping here. Just by missing out on having a stop on an existing line it hindered further investment in the city and discouraged more people from moving to Yokohama; the remedy this the Prefectural Governor suggested introducing a ¥100 tax on non-stopping services that would have raised an estimated ¥3.1 billion a year for the area.[14]

After the privatization and break-up of the Japanese National Railways (JNR), the Nationwide Shinkansen Development Law was developed to expand the Shinkansen network to 7,000km across Japan. The 7,000km network was not achievable at the time due to Oil Crisis of the 1970s, requiring plans for expansion to be dialed down to 3,500km.[14] The economic issues regarding cities with shinkansen stations and those without was also present during the network's further expansions continuing into the 2000s. The city of Komoro, which lost out to the city of Saku for a Shinkansen location, saw a rapid decrease in economic activity in the city where the occupancy rate of shops in the city was once 85% in 1992 had collapsed to just 46% by 2003.[14] Tourist and visitor numbers dropped by over 500,000 per year, causing Komoro's tourism industry shift to an emphasis on day-trips to the city rather than longer stays; this continued decline in economic activity due to being deprived of access concerned city officials that one day Komoro will effectively soon cease to exist.[14] For Komoro, like many other cities and prefectures, conventional train service would eventually terminate and be replaced by bus services and increased road transport, a problem for a nation where its railway system carries billions of passengers a year and limited space for road infrastructure.[14]

In contrast, the Shinkansen provides a great economic boost for cities and prefectures that its network connects to. Presently, cities with the Shinkansen's high-speed rail stations have 22% higher growth than cities without a high-speed rail. [15] The Shinkansen provides for connectivity between urban and suburban areas allowing for increases in population, employment, and other economic activity for places with Shinkansen stations. The presence of the high-speed rail is also linked to the increase in school enrollment, as well as education quality.[15] Cities with Shinkansen high-speed rail stations have seen a 16-34% higher growth in employment compared to cities without; the high-speed rail network has noticeably increased job opportunities for women as well.[15]

Environment[edit | edit source]

Transportation by rail is the most environment-friendly mode of transportation as trains produce one-ninth of the CO2 emissions made by automobiles and one-sixth of the CO2 emissions produced by airplanes.[16]

The Shinkansen also connects to several airports or have express trains where people can transfer over to the Shinkansen, these rail connections to the Shinkansen network are important to cutting pollution at airports as a large portion of pollution at airports is in fact created by cars traveling to and from the airport rather than by the airplanes.[14]

Social[edit | edit source]

Although economic expansionism was a strong motivator behind the development of the Shinkansen, political and social factors where also important drivers behind the Shinkansen’s development and expansion. These political and social motivators is visually represented when comparing the Shinkansen’s rail map to Japan’s other conventional lines; these conventional lines have the noticeable characteristic of being ‘zigzagged from one town to another or looped in a huge half-circle through several towns' instead of more logically connecting Japan’s urban areas.[14] This was caused by the expansion of the 1922 Railway Construction Law that further facilitated the political process by which politicians sought out favoritism or other means that would bring railways to particular constituencies, this indirectly sparked a practice of dispersion by railways that would follow into the development of the Shinkansen network.[14]

High Speed Rail Projects Across The Globe[edit | edit source]

The Shinkansen’s high-speed rail, or bullet train, technology have already successfully contracted, exported, developed, and established in several countries outside of Japan. These countries that have gained and established high-speed rail systems based upon the Shinkansen are Taiwan, China, and the United Kingdom.

Two more counties are in the process of their respective infrastructure development projects to import the Shinkansen’s technology to establish their own respective high-speed rail system for the first time; these two counties being India and the United States.

India is in the process of developing the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor that has seen a longstanding impasse due to costs of acquiring certain critical components from Japan, despite the Japan International Cooperation Agency covering 80% of the costs with a soft loan to India. [17]

The project in the United States, located in Texas to construct a Dallas-Houston bullet train developed by the Texas Central High-Speed Railway company, has also suffered from longstanding delays, yet due to persistent leadership abandonment and slow land acquisition.[18]

Maps & Diagrams[edit | edit source]

Map of current Shinkansen lines divided by governing authority. The design is structured around the Capital Tokyo with long branches connecting the north and south routing through the central station.
Examples of different models of trains used by the Shinkansen lines since the 1960's. Note the changes in aerodynamic profile.
Interior of a Shinkansen train car.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

1. The Shinkansen line has been in continuous development since the 1960's with significant expenditure of both economic and political capital. Do you think it’s possible for America to create a similar high speed rail in this current political and economic climate?

2. Shinji Sogō pushed back against his contemporaries who thought that highways and airlines would soon make railways obsolete. What are your thoughts on this? Does a country need to pick a path between highways and railways? Or can they exist together?

3. Currently there is a political debate over which direction America should take its next stage of infrastructure development. If trains and railed transportation are adopted what are some potential issues you could imagine arising as the US transitions away from airlines and highways.

References[edit | edit source]

Ait Ali, Abderrahman, and Jonas Eliasson. "European railway deregulation: an overview of the market organization and capacity allocation." Transportmetrica A: Transport Science 18.3 (2022): 594-618.

Chou, Jui-Sheng, et al. "Pricing policy of floating ticket fare for riding high-speed rail based on time-space compression." Transport Policy 69 (2018): 179-192.

Lawrence, Martha, Richard Bullock, and Ziming Liu. China's high-speed rail development. World Bank Publications, 2019.

Nonaka, Nobuhide, et al. "28 GHz-Band experimental trial at 283 km/h using the Shinkansen for 5G evolution." 2020 IEEE 91st Vehicular Technology Conference (VTC2020-Spring). IEEE, 2020.

Sato, Kenji, Hirokazu Kato, and Takafumi Fukushima. "Development of SiC applied traction system for Shinkansen high-speed train." 2018 International Power Electronics Conference (IPEC-Niigata 2018-ECCE Asia). IEEE, 2018.

Smile, Vaclav. "5. Dealing with Risk and Uncertainty." Global Catastrophes and Trends. PubPub, 2020.

Tomikawa, Tadaaki, and Mika Goto. "Efficiency assessment of Japanese National Railways before and after privatization and divestiture using data envelopment analysis." Transport Policy 118 (2022): 44-55.

Yavuz, Mehmet Nedim, and Zübeyde Öztürk. "Comparison of conventional high-speed railway, maglev and hyperloop transportation systems." International Advanced Researches and Engineering Journal 5.1 (2021): 113-122.

Yee, Lau Sim, et al. "Globalization and Education: Drawing Lessons from Japan for China, Malaysia, and Other Emerging Economies." Journal of Economic Studies 27.1 (2019).

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  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Takatsu, T. (2007). The history and future of high-speed railways in Japan. Japan Railway & Transport Review, 48, 6-21.[1]
  4. Shimomae, T. (n.d.). Birth of the Shinkansen. SpringerLink. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from [2]
  5. a b Hokuriku Shinkansen Guide: Routes, trains, seating, and Fares. (2020, May 30). Retrieved October 11, 2022, from[3]
  6. a b Hokkaidō Shinkansen Guide: Routes, trains, Fares, and sights. (2020, May 30). Retrieved October 11, 2022, from[4]
  7. 2022-09-26T13:19:00. (2022, September 26). Isolated Nishi-Kyushu Shinkansen extends Japan's High Speed Network to Nagasaki. Railway Gazette International. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from
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  10. “疑民眾闖軌道區 日本東海道新幹線釀死亡意外.” Yahoo! News, Yahoo, The Central News Agency 中央通訊社, 21 Sept. 2022,
  11. “疑民眾闖軌道區 日本東海道新幹線釀死亡意外.” 聯合新聞網, 聯合新聞網, 21 Sept. 2022, 16:09,
  12. “The Shinkansen, Japan’s High-Speed Rail, Is Full of Miracles.” JapanGov, The Government of Japan,
  13. a b “Financial and Managerial Data.” Fact Sheets | Central Japan Railway Company, Central Japan Railway Company, 31 Mar. 22AD,
  14. a b c d e f g h i HOOD, Christopher P. “The Shinkansen’s Local Impact.” Social Science Japan Journal, vol. 13, no. 2, 2010, pp. 211–25. JSTOR,
  15. a b c Rungskunroch, Panrawee, et al. “Socioeconomic Benefits of the Shinkansen Network.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 30 Apr. 2021,
  16. Hagiwara, Yoshiyasu. “Environmentally-Friendly Aspects and Innovative Lightweight Traction System Technologies of the Shinkansen High-Speed EMUs.” Wiley InterScience, Wiley InterScience, TRANSACTIONS ON ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING, 2008,
  17. Dastidar, Avishek G. “Float Tenders for Bullet Train Systems Without Delay: India to Japan.” The Indian Express, 25 Sept. 2022,
  18. Melhado, William. “After a Decade of Hype, Dallas-Houston Bullet Train Developer Faces a Leadership Exodus as Land Acquisition Slows.” The Texas Tribune, 30 Aug. 2022,

17. Mamoru, Taniguchi. "High Speed Rail in Japan: A Review and Evaluation of the Shinkansen Train." UC Berkeley: University of California Transportation Center, 01 Apr. 1992,

18. Central Japan Railway Company. "Central Japan Railway Company Integrated Annual Report 2021." 2021,

Port of Newport News

This casebook is a case study on the Port of Newport News by Andrew Kearney, Trevaughn O'Neil, Walker Brock, and Jean Montanez as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government / CEIE 499-001 Special Topics in Civil Engineering Fall 2022 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government, and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook Under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Port of Newport News, known as the Newport News Marine Terminal (NNMT) is one of six terminals of the Port of Virginia owned by the Virginia Port Authority (VPA), an agency under the Commonwealth of Virginia under the auspices of the Virginia Secretary of Transportation and operated by the VPA's private subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals LLC (VIT). Located in Newport News, Virginia, NNMT covers around 57 hectares, 165 acres on the north bank of the James River[1], and specializes in services such as warehousing, heavy-lift cranes, breakbulk, and roll-on/roll-off capabilities[2][3]. These services provided by NNMT help make the Port of Virginia the third largest port on the East Coast[4] and help attract other industries to the Virginia Commonwealth and Newport News region such as distribution and manufacturing. The NNMT is the VPA’s main terminal for break-bulk and roll-on/roll-off services. Boasting world class services and operations, the port is the fastest growing in the United States[5], and is a driver for commerce and economic growth in the region because of its large employment of ten percent of Virgina's workforce[4], and access to major roadways such as Interstate 664, Interstate 64, US Route 17 and US Route 60[1] and over 36,000 feet of rail lines[6] connecting to the Midwest. Through its specialized services, NNMT helps support Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base with shipbuilding and repairs as well[7] as serving as a focal point of cooperation and support for numerous federal customer such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Customs and Border Protection[4].

Virginia Port Authority is the Agency that owns the Port of Virginia and NNMT

History[edit | edit source]

Origins of “Newport News”

The city of Newport News was officially founded in 1896 but the area and harbor had a longer history reaching back to the 1600s[8][9]. Originally an area of land claimed by the Virginia Company (a British trading company focusing on the colonization of eastern North America), the name supposedly comes from Captain Christopher Newport who would voyage several times to Newport and could give news of supplies[9]. Around 1881 Newport News began a large amount of industrialization with the help of two large companies, the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad which extended into Newport News in 1881, and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company which began around 1886[9]. Both companies were owned by Collis P. Huntington, an American Industrialist, who led the Peninsula Extension which expanded the railroad into Newport[8][9][10]. This expansion eventually leads to the founding of the City of Newport News in 1896.

Newport News Navy Shipbuilding, and World War I and II

The Newport News Shipbuilding company quickly began making ships for the US military. By 1897 they had made 3 Gunboats for the Navy, the Nashville, the Wilmington, and the Helena[11]. By 1906 they had built 5 Battleships, the Kearsarge, the Kentucky, the Illinois, the Missouri, and the Virginia[11]. The US entered World War 1 in 1917 after the sinking of the Lusitania, and production of ships skyrocketed, with Newport News making at least 25 Battleships for the Navy[11]. During this time there was also a shortage of housing for dock workers which led to the creation of Hilton Village, and it was financed by the government, which made it one of the first planned communities in the US[8][9][12]. New highways were built in the area to connect the port to military camps[8]. After the war they began creating Aircraft Carriers with the first being the USS Ranger which launched in 1933[11][13]. In World War 2, Newport served a similar purpose and between 1938 and 1941 they built three more carriers, the Yorktown, the Enterprise, and the Hornet[11][13]. These carriers also helped win the Battle of Midway, which was a major turning point of the war[13]. The Enterprise would also go on to become the most decorated warship in the US Navy[13]. Over the course of the war, the shipbuilding yards workforce more than doubled to keep up with its needs, this also led to a massive 77% increase in the town's population[8].

Post-War Consolidation

As the population increased a large number of people moved into the surrounding areas (mostly the Warwick area), which eventually led to issues with providing services to this large influx of people as taxes couldn’t keep up[8]. There were a series of issues in trying to consolidate the surrounding areas between 1950 and 1955, but in 1957 the area of Warwick consolidated with Newport News becoming one city[8].

Shipbuilding for the Navy (Post World War II - Present)

Newport Shipbuilding continued to build more ships for the Navy, and in 1955 built the first “super-carrier” the USS Forrestal[11][13]. In 1960, Newport finished their first nuclear power submarine, the Shark[13]. In 1961, they built the Enterprise, which was the first nuclear-powered carrier. In the mid-60s Newport finished building two new carriers, the America and the Kennedy, and began working on a set of 9 nuclear power submarines[11][13]. Between the early 70s to the late 2000s the shipyard mainly focused on 10 nuclear power carriers that were all designed and built in Newport. During this time, they also build 29 Los Angeles Class Submarines between ’76 and ‘96[13] Since 2008 they have been working the first of the new class of carriers, the Gerald R. Ford, and have been working on Virginia Class submarines[13].

Newport News Marine Terminal as an Infrastructure Component[edit | edit source]

Cargo going through the Port of Virginia.

Newport News Marine Terminal[14] is an expansive port that offers 60 acres of outside storage with at least 968,000 square feet of covered storage space. The port also contains two piers that each harbor four vessel berths for expected water vessels. The pier has 3480 feet of berth space that consist of a 40 foot draft depth to accommodate approximate water vessel lengths of 850 feet. With such a large amount of space, the facility also contains 18,990 feet of Class 1 rail provided by CSX[14] Transportation (a leading provider in rail & rail-to-truck services.) Along with the Class 1 railway the port also provides multiple passageways to places around the country, The Landside Access provided by NNMT includes roads that lead to Interstate 664 (I-664) to provide goods and services to different states, roads to US route 60 to access different cities within the Virginia Area, and access to 25th Street which is a direct road into the city of Newport News. The Waterside Access[15] for NNMT consists of two parts. The first part of the Waterside access would be its connection to the James River. From this river water vessels are able to service the Port of Chesapeake, Hopewell, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Richmond which are all located locally in Virginia. The James River then feeds into the Chesapeake Bay which is the second part of NNMT's Waterside Access. The Chesapeake Bay is a system of Rivers that connect NNMT to other ports in the DMV area including - the Washington Navy Yard located in the District of Columbia, the Port of Annapolis and Baltimore located in Maryland, and the Port of Alexandria and Cape Charles which are located further up in Virginia. Along with the Waterside Access of the Newport News Marine Terminal is the Newport Shipyard which offers on-site refit and repair services for ocean vessels. [16]

Infrastructure Performance[edit | edit source]

The Newport News Marine Terminal has continued to remain an efficient and dependable port throughout the years. During a time with tariff-driven trade wars, economic ruin and the Covid-19 crisis, Newport News Marine Terminal has been on top of the manufacturing and redistribution of goods. A major consequence from the pandemic was its impediment on manufacturing mostly being the production and supply of goods. Although many critical businesses remained operable the supply for goods was either halted or slowly decreased while the demand for products continued to grow. The port had to adjust to accommodate their customers who were heavily affected by the pandemic. The Marine Terminal's persistence and determination during the pandemic led to its most productive year on record.[17][18] NNMT recorded "more than 3.5 million TEUs" (Twenty-foot equivalent units) starting in the year 2021. (The fiscal year started in June 2021 and ended this year in May). Stephen A. Edward[19] the CEO and executive director acknowledged the port's success to "the entire port of Virginia team along with its supporting partners[20] in delivering best-in-class performance." The port has also delivered exceptional ship repair to yachts, recreational boats, and commercial vessels. The Newport Shipyard has serviced a multitude of maritime vessels for customers and armed forces alike and has not had any trouble doing any carpentry, metal work, mechanical or electrical repairs to get each vessel in its best working conditions. In conclusion, NNMT has remained a vital infrastructure component that benefits the citizens of Virginia but also the Marines and Navy forces that are serviced by the port.[21]

Funding[edit | edit source]

The Newport News terminal, like its sibling facilities nearby, is sustained mainly by the revenues it produces from its port activities. The terminal has the capacity to handle break-bulk, roll-on / roll-off cargo, shipbuilding, and large storage facilities including 60 acres of outside storage and 968,000sq ft of covered storage[22][23]. According to the VPA’s 2022 Annual Comprehensive Financial report, for the international terminals the total amount of operating revenue is $873,707, while the total of operating expenses is $876,048[24]. Additionally, the facilities also receive funds from state grants for specific new constructions or maintenance. Huntington Ingalls Industry (HII), the largest military shipbuilding company in the country has a facility in the port that focuses on building U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carriers, submarines, refueling, complex overhaul, and carrier inactivation[25]. Aside from its transportation connections via water, the Newport News terminal also is connected to rail transportation provided by CSX Corporation[23]. The terminal is just off from Interstate 664 to downtown Newport News and has easy access to Interstate 64, US Route 17, and US Route 60[22], all of these allow for easy movements of goods from the terminal to its national and international partners. According to the VPA annual financial report, the top 5 trading partners when it comes to exports are China, Brazil, India, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom[24]. Meanwhile, the top 5 import partners are: China, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil[24].

Future Development[edit | edit source]

Dredging in the Thimble Shoal to accommodate larger ships and volumes of Cargo.

With the volume of cargo coming through NNMT steadily and consistently increasing, plans have been made for the expansion of the port to accommodate the increase in traffic through the port. The Port of Newport News is one of the fastest growing ports in the United States and helps support the world’s largest naval base. NNMT is expected to invest $1.5 Billion into its infrastructure improvements between 2015 and 2025[26]. This has led to the implementation of the FY2022-2065 2065 Master Plan, a commitment of over more than forty years to expand the port to meet the growing needs of its customers including the U.S. armed forces, civilian customers, and the growing population in the region. The main emphasis of the Master Plan involves steady investment leading to consistent growth and connectivity with other parts of the world including South America, Asia, and Africa; and investing in increasing current capabilities[5]. A $350M investment will be made to deepen the thimble shoal channel by 55 feet[27][5], to remove sediment build up in the water accommodate more traffic coming through the Chesapeake Bay into Norfolk Harbor and the James River and is set to be done by 2024 and become the deepest port on the East Coast[2]. By the end of the Master Plan the NNMT will increase its status as the port best suited for warehousing, rolling cargo and breakbulk cargo. Logistical investments will also be made to update and replace old equipment at the end of their service life[2] to accommodate the traffic and cargo volume increases. The investments for the expansion of the port will be funded by the VPA’s Capital Investment Plan (CIP), a combination of federal and state funds, and port revenue[3] and will use a tiered approach to allocate funds towards the most in demand infrastructure projects including dredging, updating and increasing the efficiency of existing facilities, and constructing new ones. The CIP is forecasted and calculated to provide unconstrained growth through 2065 while making positive cash flow annually[3]. The need and desire to expand the port and its infrastructure is a result of increased volume coming through the port which causes logistical issues such as congestion, delays, and increased emissions of Greenhouse Gasses such as Carbon Dioxide (Co2)[5]. The surge in volume and resulting congestion from larger ships carrying greater amounts of cargo helps increase the risk of supply chain shortages and crises, prompting a proactive effort by the VPA to increase the capacity of each port under its authority. The forty-three yearlong Master Plan encompasses not just improved infrastructure for increased port capacity and expansion of services, but also environmentally safe operations.

Extensive rail connectivity from the Port of Virginia

Environmental Impact[edit | edit source]

Another foremost aspect of the VPA Master Plan is the commitment to operate all ports, including Newport News on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 and net zero carbon emissions by 2040[5], operating in an eco-friendlier manner and being more energy efficient. The high degree of industrial activities in the port brings up concerns of increased pollution of air emissions and toxic chemicals leading to negative health effects such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes[28]. This leads to the commitment of the port to operate in a manner of cutting emissions to as close to zero as possible and balancing emissions by removing an equal amount of carbon from the atmosphere as released into it. Aside from NNMT’s efforts to operate at net zero carbon emissions by 2040, the VPA has made efforts as early as 2008 to utilize operations and systems to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly operations as part of the Environmental Management System (EMS). The EMS is designed to identify environmental risks relating to port operations and begin efforts to improve efficiency. Examples of this include identifying ways to reduce air emissions, and managing waste generated from port operations, and embracing recycling practices[29]. The EMS program is certified by the International Standards Organization, making it the first of its kind to operate on the East Coast[29].  

Key Figures[edit | edit source]

VA Secretary of Transportation - Ensures the state of Virginia has access to outside markets by overseeing and maintaining transportation networks and services. [30]

Virginia Port Authority - State agency and owner of the Port of Virginia, including Newport News, reports to Secretary[31]

Virginia International Terminals LLC - Private subsidiary of VPA who has operated the port since 1981.[26]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b Newport News Marine Terminal (NNMT). Port of Virginia. Retrieved October 15, 2022 from:
  2. a b c FY2022 - 2065 2065 Master Plan Executive Summary FY2022 Base. Port of Virginia. Retrieved September 20, 222 from:
  3. a b c 2065 Master Plan Executive Summary. Port of Virginia. Retrieved September 20, 2022 from:
  4. a b c (Summer 2016). Waterways, America's Economic Engine. Coast Guard Journal of Safety and Security at Sea, Proceedings of the Marine Safety and Security Council. Retrieved October 16, 2022 from:
  5. a b c d e Edwards, S. 2022 State of the Port. The Port of Virginia. Retrieved September 20, 2022 from:
  6. Rail Transit Times. Virginia Port Authority. Retrieved October 16, 2022 from:
  7. Virginia Port Authority. Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved October 14, 2022 from:
  8. a b c d e f g City of Newport News. History of Consolidation. Newport News. Retrieved October 17, 2022 From:
  9. a b c d e Overview and Fun Facts. Newport News in Coastal Virginia. Retrieved October 17,2022 from:
  10. Huntington Ingalls Industries. About Us. Retrieved October 17, 2022 from:
  11. a b c d e f g (2022, January 17). Newport News Shipbuilding. Retrieved October 17, 2022 from:
  12. 121-0009 Hilton Village. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved October 17, 2022 from:
  13. a b c d e f g h i NNS and American Aircraft Carriers. Huntington Ingalls Industries. Retrieved October 17, 2022 from:
  14. a b
  22. a b Newport News Marine Terminal (NNMT). Port of Virginia. Retreieved from:
  23. a b Port of Newport News. World Port Source. Retrieved from:
  24. a b c Annual Comprehensive Financial Report for the Fiscal Year ended June 22. Virginia Port Authority. Retrieved from:
  25. U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers. Huntington Ingall Industries. Retrieved from:
  26. a b Who Are We. The Port of Virginia. Retrieved October 15, 2022 from:
  27. Virginia Port Authority. Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved October 15, 2022 from:
  28. Burke, N Cairns, A. DeStefano, C. Lee K, Martinez, R. Naidu, P. Phen, S. Yandle, M. Mitigating Air Quality Impacts in Newport News, Virginia. University of North Carolina Institue for the Environment. Retrieved October 10, 2022 from:
  29. a b The Port of Virgina's Environmental Management System. Port of Virginia. Retrieved October 10, 2022 from:
  30. Secretary of Transportation. Commonwealth of Virginia. Retrieved October 13, 2022 from:,Sheppard%20Miller%20III
  31. Port of Virginia. Journal of Commerce. Retrieved October 15, 2022 from:

Brightline Rail System

Infrastructure Past, Present, and Future Casebook/Brightline Rail System[edit | edit source]

Brightline Rail System


This casebook is a case study on the Brightline Rail System by Adam Alamin, Zachary Robinson, Fahad Saad, Rodrigo Salas, and Mireen Yabut as part of the Infrastructure Past, Present and Future: GOVT 490-004 (Synthesis Seminar for Policy & Government) / CEIE 499-001 (Special Topics in Civil Engineering) Fall 2022 course at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government and the Volgenau School of Engineering Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering. Modeled after the Transportation Systems Casebook. Under the instruction of Prof. Jonathan Gifford.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Brightline Rail is a high-speed train that operated under “All Aboard Florida” in its early development stages. In March 2012, Florida East Coastal Industries officially announced the project launch, which would connect Miami to Orlando. After multiple agreements, foreign investments, and funding efforts, Brightline officially began service in 2018. In 2019, the second phase of construction started in order to connect West Palm Beach to Orlando. Phase 3 is the final planned phase, and it is set to link Tampa to Orlando International Airport.  

Three main challenges during the first two construction phases were faced by the companies involved: the struggle to find funding, easement acquisition resistance, and accidents. When the project was first launched, it was the only entirely privately funded railway system in the nation, but government subsidies were later provided. Brightline is currently estimated to cost $6 billion, as opposed to the original estimate of $3 billion. Current funding is centered around tax-exempt private activity bonds and, while Brightline still receives private funding, the Florida state government and the federal government are heavily involved.  

Annotated List of Actors[edit | edit source]

  • High-Speed Rail Alliance (HSRA)

Ownership and Operation:[edit | edit source]

  • Florida East Coast Industries LLC[1]
  • Fortress Investment Group[2]
  • AAF Holdings LLC[1]
  • AAF Operations Holdings LLC[1]
  • AAF Operations LLC[1]

Financing:[edit | edit source]

  • Florida Development Finance Corporation[1]
  • United States Department of Transportation – for funding approval[1]

Timeline of Events[edit | edit source]

Origins:[edit | edit source]

  • May 9th, 2007: Florida East Coastal Industries Is purchased by Fortress Investment Group.[2]
  • March 22nd, 2012: FECI announces the launch of the project "All Aboard Florida" (later Brightline), a private rail system linking Miami to Orlando.[2]
  • October 3rd, 2013: The project is approved for the rights to a plot of land along SR 528.[2]
  • August 2014: Siemens USA announces it will build Locomotives and Passenger Cars for the project.[2]

Initial Construction Period:[edit | edit source]

  • October 29th, 2014: Project All Aboard Florida begins construction in Fort Lauderdale.[2]
  • November 10th, 2015: Florida announces a new name for the High-Speed Rail: Brightline.[1]
  • December 14th, 2016: Brightline’s first trainset (BrightBlue) consisting of four passenger cars and two locomotives, arrives in West Palm Beach.[2]

Further Development and Events:[edit | edit source]

  • February 14th, 2017: Japanese company SoftBank Group purchases Fortress Investment Group for $3.3 Billion.[2]
  • March 13th, 2017: The Railway’s second trainset (BrightPink) is brought to Florida.[2]
  • May 11th, 2017: Two more trainsets, BrightGreen and BrightOrange, are brought to West Palm Beach.[2]
  • October 5th, 2017: The final Trainset (BrightRed) is delivered to Florida.[2]
  • January 13th, 2018: The project’s first ride, from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale, officially marks the start of the service.[2]
  • June 2019: The second phase of construction, linking West Palm Beach to Orlando, begins.[3]
  • March 25th, 2020: Brightline suspends all project services due to the dangers of the COVID-19 Pandemic.[4]
  • November 8th, 2021: Service begins again.

Maps[edit | edit source]

Phase 1: Miami - West Palm Beach[edit | edit source]

  • Operation of Phase 1 began in 2018.[5]
  • Shared use line of 65 miles with freight[5]
  • Runs at a speed of approximately 79 mph.[5]
  • Estimates of ridership in 2019 were approximately 885,000 people.[5]

Phase 2: West Palm Beach - Orlando International Airport[edit | edit source]

  • Still under construction, and plans to be operational sometime in 2022.[5]
  • Spans from West Palm Beach to Cocoa up to Orlando International Airport.[5]
  • 120-mile upgraded shared-use line.30
  • Will run at speeds between 110-125 mph.[5]
  • 35-mile new dedicated high-speed line.[5]
  • The Expected annual ridership is around 3+ million.[5]

Phase 3: Orlando International Airport - Tampa[edit | edit source]

  • 85-mile proposed dedicated line in the medians of I-4 and SR 417.[5]
  • Planned to run at 125 mph.[5]
  • Currently still in the planning phase.[5]

This grant, an extension of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program39, is planned to include 33 miles of fencing at hotspot trespassing locations along with other extensive improvements at all 333 crossings along the corridor, which will span from Miami to Orlando.

Part of these funds will also go towards installing an additional 150 warning signs and 170 additional suicide crisis hotline signs to reach out to individuals considering suicide.[6]

Narrative of the Case[edit | edit source]

Project Description[edit | edit source]

In 2012, All Aboard Florida, a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, announced the plan to operate a passenger rail service between Orlando and Miami (Railway Gazette). This new express service offers an alternative mode of transportation for 50 million passengers, who currently travel by air or road between Orlando and South Florida. Being an infrastructure project of such a large scale, the Brightline Railway system has been in the works for the past decade and will not be fully completed for years to come.[2] Nevertheless, the project was broken down into 3 phases. Phase 1 connects Miami with West Palm Beach through Fort Lauderdale. Phase 2 of the Brightline high-speed rail project extends the railway from West Palm Beach to Orlando. Phase 3 will include a rail line between Orlando International Airport and Tampa.[7]

Project Construction[edit | edit source]

Due to the magnitude of the project and its various locations, multiple general contractors were hired at different phases for distinct portions of the work involved.[7]

Suffolk Construction was contracted by All Aboard Miami for the pre-construction and as the general contractor for the nine-acre multimodal station built in downtown Miami. Work on the Miami-West Palm Beach section began in mid-2014 with the laying of new tracks and temporary surface lot closures in Government Center, Downtown Miami.[8] Site clearing and demolition began in late 2014.[9]

Moss & Associates, was the general contractor for the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale stations. Work on the Fort Lauderdale station also began in late 2014 with the demolition of existing structures on site.[10]

Construction work on Phase 2, between West Palm Beach and Orlando, was officially underway in June of 2019, following a groundbreaking ceremony at Orlando International Airport.[3] Preliminary work on the corridor began in September of 2019 and began path clearing for construction of the Orlando–Cocoa portion in October of the same year.[11]

The contractors involved in phase 2 are Wharton-Smith, The Middlesex Corporation, Hubbard Construction Company, Granite, and HSR Constructors. These five contractors are responsible for the development of 170 miles of new track into the completed state-of-the-art intermodal facility located in the new South Terminal at Orlando International Airport.[7] Herzog is the managing partner for the HSR Constructors joint venture constructing the express intercity passenger rail system expansion project.[12]

Phase 1 launched on January 8th of 2018, currently running 16 daily round trips. Phase 2, after several launch date setbacks, is scheduled for launch in early 2023.[13] While passenger trains are not yet running, Brightline began to test trains in October of 2022 at 110 mph.[14]

In 2014, All Aboard Florida placed a contract for five train sets with Siemens USA. The first train set was delivered in December 2016, while the last was received in December 2017.

Cummins won the contract to supply the QSK95 engines for the locomotives, while the interiors of the train sets were designed by t