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Hard Lessons from Genoa

In Western Europe and the United States, bridges, roads, and railways built in the 1950s and 1960s during the post-war reconstruction and economic boom are now old, obsolete, and overused. So why aren't they being replaced?

GENOA – Is our infrastructure safe? In the aftermath of the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, this is the question on everybody’s mind. Of course, we could argue that disasters like this are one-offs, and even believe that they may be peculiar to Italy – a country where infrastructure projects are often fertile ground for corruption. But we would only be fooling ourselves.

In Western Europe and the United States, bridges, roads, and railways built in the 1950s and 1960s during the post-war reconstruction and economic boom are now old, obsolete, and overused. Does any developed economy have a long-term strategy to manage its essential infrastructure? Are risks being correctly assessed and mitigated? What are the trade-offs between maintaining and replacing infrastructure approaching the end of its life? And how can citizens influence the public debate about who should pay for infrastructure and where it should be built?

Italy and other advanced economies need policies that strategically and sustainably connect infrastructure plans that local and central governments have produced over the years. They need to assess the resources and assets that will be required in the years ahead. And they should highlight the social value, rather than only the immediate financial returns, of essential infrastructure.

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