• Gaps in funding, labor, and materials are key challenges facing US infrastructure development.
  • However, technology like AI, the cloud, and connected construction platforms enable the AECO industry to streamline workflows, improve sustainability, and advance risk assessment in infrastructure.
  • In honor of Infrastructure Week, Autodesk shares how its customers are using technology to maximize their infrastructure projects.

Technology will enable more efficient redevelopment of US infrastructure.

Today marks the start of another Infrastructure Week, and this year there is much to be optimistic about. The US government continues to prioritize infrastructure improvements through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which has designated hundreds of billions of dollars to repair roads, bridges, and support transportation programs. Additionally, funds raised by private investment firms have surpassed $1 trillion for the first time.

While this funding is a step in the right direction, it’s still not enough to meet the demand for new roads, railways, bridges, and water infrastructure across the US. The recent Baltimore bridge collapse was a tragedy and a reminder of the vulnerability of our infrastructure and critical need for redevelopment. On average, $3.7 trillion is needed every year through 2035 to meet future demands globally. Beyond this gap in funding, the architecture, engineering, construction, and operations (AECO) industry is also facing labor and material shortages.

Despite these challenges, I’m optimistic that modern technology will enable us to build more with less. And the US government is attuned to this: the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has a program to support adoption of digital design and construction for highways projects. More recently, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee convened a roundtable on AI where my colleague, Nicolas Mangon, VP of AEC Industry Strategy at Autodesk, talked about the exciting ways AI can transform infrastructure development. By fully embracing solutions like AI, the cloud, and connected construction platforms, we can plan, design, and construct faster and more sustainably to provide more resilient infrastructure for future generations.

With that in mind, here are a few ways that modern technology is driving infrastructure development:

1. Streamlining communications and removing team silos.

On any given project, there are multiple stakeholders that must collaborate throughout the design and make process. However, stakeholders often work in silos, workflows are disconnected, and the right project data is difficult to access. Cloud-connected technology brings teams together to improve collaboration and provide a real-time view into project data and progress. The cloud is an essential component of connected construction platforms like Autodesk Construction Cloud, which make it easier to analyze project information and make accurate forecasts and project decisions.

HNTB, an AEC company focused on transportation infrastructure, established a common data environment that integrated Autodesk Construction Cloud, Autodesk Build, and Esri’s ArcGIS Online to unite teams, workflows, and project data to help California’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) study how they can better connect to 21 counties in the Northern California Megaregion by train.

Adam Horn, who leads HNTB’s Virtual Design & Construction Team shares that, “Autodesk Build and ArcGIS Online are allowing us to be more efficient in our delivery. We can push project information to the cloud and make it available to the broader stakeholder group, the client, even to the public along with data analytics and complex dashboards that are now more intuitive and easier to understand.”

HNTB leveraged cloud-based solutions from Autodesk’s strategic alliance with Esri to connect 21 counties to California’s BART transportation system.

Similarly, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) delivered a $2 billion highway expansion project on time using Autodesk Construction Cloud, which reduced drive times for local communities. Autodesk Construction Cloud enabled INDOT designers, engineers, and contractors to manage project documentation in one central environment, which increased transparency, removed bottlenecks, and enabled the project to be delivered on schedule and within budget.

2. Improving project sustainability.

According to Autodesk’s 2024 State of Design & Make report, future investment in sustainability is a top priority for civil infrastructure leaders. For infrastructure projects to be truly sustainable, teams need the right tools and data to make informed decisions that reduce project waste and environmental impacts.

For example, Autodesk’s ML Deluge Tool for InfoDrainage, powered by Autodesk AI, enables teams to quickly and easily understand how water will flow on their project sites, where it will pool, and the impacts of extreme weather events. This information is critical for infrastructure projects and allows drainage designers to make quicker, more informed decisions from the outset to mitigate flood risk.

Another example comes from Arcadis, a global design, engineering, and consultancy firm that used Autodesk’s construction management software in its recent project to modernize 20 toll plazas for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission. With Autodesk Construction Cloud and Autodesk Build, Arcadis centralized their communications and collaboration, helping the firm reduce the project’s carbon footprint by 50 tons.

Arcadis used Autodesk Build to deliver a large-scale toll road update under budget.

3. Evaluating risk assessment and prioritization.

With much of our infrastructure in need of replacement or repairs, it’s important to understand where to prioritize to reduce risk. For example, aging water infrastructure contributes heavily to water-related crises; there are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year, which can lead to millions of people losing access to safe drinking water.

The Biden Administration has proposed that all lead pipes in the US be replaced within 10 years. At Autodesk, we support the proposal as a critical step to providing clean water for communities. But with an estimated 9.2 million lead service pipes, this is a daunting task. However, with cloud-based technology like Autodesk’s Info360 Asset, utilities and municipalities can streamline their inspection process and improve evaluations of risk and the assessment of the conditions of their pipes. This provides valuable insights on where to prioritize pipe repair and replacement based on the chance of failure.

Assessing risk can also help prevent the impacts of flooding in communities. The city of Fayetteville in North Carolina grapples with flooding, so it turned to Autodesk’s InfoWorks ICM to model 2-year to 100-year storm events and analyze where to prioritize flooding prevention. The analysis improved the city’s resilience to extreme weather with an estimated $24.7 million benefit over 10 years in flood risk reduction and property damage.

We already have the technology we need to repair and rebuild our roads, bridges, transportation systems, and water infrastructure in cities across the US. And $85 million in Federal funding is available to help through the FHWA’s Advanced Digital Construction Management System program, which supports state and local departments of transportation to accelerate their adoption of digital construction for highway projects.

The US is at a pivotal moment in public infrastructure. To maximize projects and build infrastructure that will last for the next 100+ years, we must lean on technology to drive us forward. I’m optimistic that we can achieve this together.