What’s all the fuss about infrastructure?

Peggy Layne, P.E., Co-Volume Editor, Women in Infrastructure, Springer Women in Engineering and Science Series

Where does your drinking water come from? Is it clean? How will you get from your home to the market or your place of work? What is infrastructure, anyway?

Sustainable Development Goal 9 calls for quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure to support economic development and human well being. Infrastructure includes all of the largely invisible systems that support communities, such as roads, bridges, water supplies, waste management, dams and levees, waterways and ports, energy and communication. Existing infrastructure systems in the developed world need to be maintained and transitioned to more sustainable operation. As the developing world expands its infrastructure, it has the opportunity to build in resilience and sustainability.

The United States was once considered a world leader in infrastructure, but analyses by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) over the past 20 years identified a long-term investment gap between the available funding and the amount needed to maintain that leadership. ASCE’s Report Card on America’s Infrastructure identifies seventeen categories of infrastructure and catalogues the current status and outstanding needs.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in the U.S. in November 2021 provides federal funding to address a backlog of maintenance and improvements to a wide range of infrastructure, from airports and broadband to ports and transit systems. The funding will largely flow through states to support repairs and modernization projects identified by local communities to support and improve their economies and quality of life.

Women in Infrastructure - the soon to be released volume of Springer’s Women in Engineering and Science series describes the ways that women are meeting a variety of infrastructure challenges.

Peggy Layne © Springer NaturePeggy Layne, P.E., retired from Virginia Tech in 2019 after serving as director of AdvanceVT, a National Science Foundation funded program to increase women faculty in science and engineering, and Assistant Provost for Faculty Affairs since 2003. She previously worked as director of the program on diversity at the National Academy of Engineering and spent 17 years as an environmental engineering consultant. Ms. Layne holds degrees in environmental and water resources engineering, and served as president of the Society of Women Engineers in 1996-97.