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Development and Design of Large Infrastructure Projects: Disregarded Alternatives and Issues of Spatial Planning

Hugo Priemus
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Hugo Priemus: Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, Jaffalaan 5, Delft, The Netherlands

Environment and Planning B, 2007, vol. 34, issue 4, 626-644

Abstract: The Dutch Parliamentary Commission on Infrastructural Projects has conducted a parliamentary inquiry into the decisionmaking process and implementation control in two major infrastructural projects: the Betuwe Freight Line between Rotterdam and Germany, and the HSL - Zuid— the high-speed rail link which will connect Amsterdam with Belgium and France. The commission proposes a new assessment framework which gives parliament better control of the decisionmaking process for future large projects. In this contribution I discuss the development and design of large infrastructure projects, including the way the territorial impact of these projects is mitigated. I observe that problems are often approached from extremely narrow terms of reference, from one favourite solution, whereby countless potentially worthwhile alternative solutions are dismissed out of hand or enter the picture too late. In addition, problems concerning the mitigation of territorial impacts of infrastructure are misjudged in the beginning, and lead to cost overruns at a later stage. There is too much focus on the infrastructure track and not enough focus on area development. Also, the operation of the infrastructure project is misjudged and attention is too narrowly focused on the investment aspects of the project. I formulate some lessons for the future, not only for the Netherlands, but also for other modern countries. The timely generation and acknowledgement of infrastructure alternatives enhances the democratic process and quality of public decisionmaking.

Date: 2007
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