The coronavirus pandemic has placed incredible pressure on state and local budgets, with some projecting a total shortfall of over $500 billion.1 At the same time, the pandemic has also highlighted the disastrous effects of systemic social inequity. Coronavirus fatalities in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities have been disproportionately high, primarily as a result of discrimination; healthcare access and utilization; higher rates of occupation as essential workers; educational, income, and wealth gaps; and crowded housing conditions, eviction, and homelessness.
The pandemic has also shown us significant gaps in our ability to quickly bounce back from a crisis. Adding resilience into our built environment, such as equipping buildings to serve as community hot spots, testing centers, or hospital surge capacity if and when the next pandemic or natural disaster strikes will be a critical step to better preparedness later.
One way to help address the simultaneous issues of social inequity, the need for greater resiliency, and budgetary short falls is to ensure public infrastructure serves more than one function. Triple-duty infrastructure follows the rationale of triple bottom line analysis—to be truly valuable, an investment must benefit the economy, equity, and the environment. This is sometimes referred to as profits, people, and planet. In this scenario, everyone wins.
The most notable barrier to ensuring triple-duty infrastructure can be city capital planning and budget processes which typically occur in silos and are only reviewed together once the planning is complete. Triple-duty infrastructure requires an integrated planning process and interdepartmental collaboration from the very beginning.
The action plan below includes elements to consider when implementing a process to make triple duty infrastructure a reality along with many examples of successes.