The Big Question

Where Should Infrastructure Investments in the U.S. Start?
Illustration by Kolin Behrens

David Blazar
Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Economics, College of Education

We need to invest in infrastructure that allows all students and families to access a high-quality education from anywhere at any time. Doing so requires increased access to at-home equipment (e.g., tablets, computers) and Wi-Fi, which can also support ongoing training of teachers—by far the most important personnel resource we provide to kids—through remote, one-on-one coaching.

Sandor Boyson
Research Professor Emeritus, Robert H. Smith School of Business

The U.S. needs infrastructure investment that is guided by a “national supply chain strategy” to connect our commercial/trade corridors to the world marketplace more effectively using innovations in transportation, e-commerce and logistics. Some domestic precedents exist, such as the 15-year, $6.4 billion Heartland Corridor Project, a public/private partnership that cut 200 miles off the route between the Port of Virginia at Norfolk and Chicago.

Brian S. Butler
Senior Associate Dean and Professor, College of Information Studies


Carmen Cantemir-Stone
Biology Lecturer, College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

Healthy people = healthy nation. So let’s include access to health care as “infrastructure”: reduced-cost insurance, medication, mental health care, and child care with art and sports programs, fresh food and veggies in food deserts, and access to clean water and safe housing.

Kyu Yong Choi
Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

All power supply lines must be put underground. Currently, utility poles are still everywhere making them extremely vulnerable to natural disasters and terrorist attacks that will bring chaos to our society.

Jason Farman
Professor of American Studies Professor, Director of the Design Cultures and Creativity program in the Honors College

As has become painfully obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of abundant access to technology and high-speed internet has put so many in the United States at a disadvantage. With remote learning being an important example, investing in broadband infrastructure across the country is key for equity in education and social mobility.

Adrianne Flynn
Senior Lecturer and Internships and Career Development Director, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

When I am stuck in traffic to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, I think about the waste of fuel, time and energy. What a sensible solution a ferry/bus line would be: Park on one side, jump on the ferry, grab a bus on the other side connecting to buses that run up and down the coast.

Marccus Hendricks
Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Begin with systems that enhance hazard mitigation and climate adaptation, such green infrastructure and other stormwater management and flood control assets that are either nonexistent or in great disrepair. What’s the point in pristine roads and highways that are inundated or impassable?

Jungho Kim
Professor of Mechanical Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Billions of dollars flow out of windows every year in the form of energy losses. We can cut these losses by at least half by eliminating the gas between the glass panes and using the resulting vacuum to produce windows whose performance approaches that of the walls around them. We have been developing these windows that are low-cost, reliable and extremely energy-efficient.

Birthe Kjellerup
Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

There should be major investments into human infrastructure such as high-quality preschool/affordable day care, before- and after-school care that provides access to high-quality homework help, and outdoor experiences (including STEAM and physical activity) that can facilitate an interest in the outdoor environment including engineering and healthy living. This “active and intelligent” day care can be coupled to a mentoring pipeline, where grad students mentor undergraduate students, who mentor high school students, who mentor middle school students, who mentor elementary school students. These voids became apparent during COVID-19!

Albert “Pete” Kyle
Charles E. Smith Chair Professor of Finance, Robert H. Smith School of Business

Infrastructure investment should look forward into the 21st century, including improving roadways for self-driving cars and building bullet-train infrastructure, battery technology for storing solar, wind and nuclear energy, aircraft monitoring technology for managing skies filled with drones, personal aircraft and large airplanes, and super-high-speed internet.

Alex Leitch
Lecturer, College of Information Studies

Infrastructure investments in the U.S. should start with high-speed, well-maintained rail service to supplement and replace overburdened interstates, particularly on the East Coast and between hubs in the South. Mass transit is for everyone, and the strongest option we have to move toward a sustainable future.

Rafael Lorente
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Philip Merrill College of Journalism

The infrastructure of news and information in this country is in dire need of a boost at the local level. Fewer informed citizens and less accountability reporting means more room for disinformation to spread. Local news is a critical part of the infrastructure of democracy. It needs to be rebuilt.

Jim Milke
Fire Protection Engineering Professor and Chair, A. James Clark School of Engineering

1. Improved funding of emergency services to provide proper protective equipment and medical and firefighting equipment, whether such service is being provided in an urban, suburban or rural setting. 2. Increased coverage and reliability of Wi-Fi services to enable reliance on such throughout all 50 states, D.C. and U.S. territories to be a primary means of communication between buildings and monitoring services for fire and security alarms.

Nicole Mogul
Electrical and Computer Engineering Lecturer, A. James Clark School of Engineering

With equity. Fund projects that will benefit the most underprivileged groups—either in neighborhoods where they live, their transportation, or by giving them jobs. Infrastructure should start in communities to create walkable, peaceful and climate-resilient places to live and work.

Derek Paley
Willis H. Young Jr. Professor of Aerospace Engineering Education, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Infrastructure to produce sustainable transportation modalities including personal electric vehicles, bicycles and scooters. This includes lanes, charging stations, parking, incentives, etc.

Devon Payne-Sturges
Associate Professor, Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, School of Public Health

The Biden administration should prioritize infrastructure investments in rural communities, which would have a significant environmental justice impact. In her 2020 book “Waste,” Catherine Coleman Flowers describes in striking detail how the lack of proper waste sanitation in rural America exacts a phenomenal toll on public health and human dignity.

Gibson Scisco
Postdoctoral Researcher of Materials Science and Engineering, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Modernization of the power grid to allow for decentralized power generation and distribution through individual solar-powered homes should be a top priority. Solar energy could drastically cut emissions even using the most basic polycrystalline silicon solar panels if deployed at scale, but efficient handling of this new clean energy is vital.

Marvin A. Titus
Associate Professor of Higher Education, College of Education

More physical capital investment is needed to maintain aging buildings or construct new ones at public higher education institutions, which face extremely high deferred maintenance costs. This is particularly the case at historically Black and other institutions serving underrepresented minority students.

David Tomblin
Senior Lecturer, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Identifying and renovating infrastructure that has created barriers between communities (e.g., highways that have disrupted communities), race and socio-economic class. Making sure new infrastructure doesn’t create similar divisions and serves as broad a swath of society as possible.

Arnaud Trouvé
Fire Protection Engineering Professor, A. James Clark School of Engineering

Development of an infrastructure to manage the risk of wildfires and wildland-urban interface fires. The system will be based on airborne and/or spaceborne detection technologies combined with weather observations, dynamic estimates of vegetation fuel properties, computational forecasting of the fire spread and actionable estimates of the fire risk.

Gregg Vanderheiden
Professor and Trace Research & Development Center Director, College of Information Studies

Infrastructure should start with ensuring that everyone can access and use the internet. That includes not just the final mile (hooking up to their house) but the final foot (an interface that each person can use regardless of age, disability or technical skill).


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