U.S. Infrastructure Projects Cost Way More Than They Should, Explained

Panos Prevedouros, a professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii
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Panos Prevedouros, PHD, professor of Engineering at the University of Hawaii

BY PANOS PREVEDOUROS PHD –  The Atlantic Cities magazine published a condensed analysis of seven main reasons that explain why U.S infrastructure project cost more than elsewhere. They are:

1. Davis-Bacon Laws: Passed in 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act mandates that laborers for federal public works projects receive local prevailing wages. (+22%)

2. Project Labor Agreements: In 2009, President Obama signed an executive order mandating that contractors for federal projects exceeding $25 million sign Project Labor Agreements, which guarantee the hiring of union workers. (+13~15%)


3. ‘Buy America’ Provision: For decades, this provision has discouraged projects from being built with manufactured goods made outside the U.S. Obama strengthened it in the 2009 stimulus package to include projects besides just highways. (+10~500%)*

4. Lengthy Environmental Reviews. (+10~25%)*

5. Transportation Alternatives Program: Everyone can agree that walking trails, complete streets, historic renovations, landscaping, and bike lanes are public goods, but should they be paid for with highway fund money? This is the current policy of the FHWA. (+5~20%)*

6. Administrative Costs: Currently, U.S. transportation revenue is like a boomerang, going from the states to Washington and back. Naturally, this process adds bureaucratic costs. (+10%)*

7. Toll Bans: Although tolls exist along some stretches of interstate, they are generally not permitted by the federal government. This has stripped the government of a key revenue source that could be used for repairs, and for cheaper borrowing. (+10~50%)*

Note: (*) Author’s estimates.
SOURCE: 7 Reasons U.S. Infrastructure Projects Cost Way More Than They Should





  1. Hawaii is the Worst of all. H-3 took so long and was so costly that it had to be completed by a mainland company. The government and construction workers here are a bunch of idiots.

  2. Dr. Prevedouros should stick to his area of expertise, or at least review the articles he chooses to cut-paste from other sources before he edits them poorly and re-posts them. This post states that a 2009 Obama executive order (EO 13502, since it isn't sourced) that lifted the ban on Project Labor Agreements "mandates" them when it clearly does not. Obviously he has never read the executive order. I guess Dr. Prevedouros didn't lie to you–all he really said was that some magazine published an article…so make sure you are reading VERY carefully when you listen to this guy. *Note: author's estimates–but I'm not telling who the author is, or that the author sourced some of the estimates rather than claiming them as his own. You'll have to look that up for yourself.

  3. The source that you are copying from forgot to consider lawsuits by NIMBYs and antis of all kinds, shapes and forms, including unsuccessful office holders.

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