Game changer: Aging infrastructure

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Doug Brown, PE, has served the City of Overland Park, Kan., for the past 15 years. In 2005, he was named director of public works, and before that, he was city engineer for eight years. He manages 133 employees and oversees street, stormwater, traffic, facilities and fleet-maintenance program areas. Prior to public works, Brown enjoyed a 22-year military career in the U.S. Army, earning his final rank of Colonel.

WILLIAM D. (DOUG) BROWN, PE

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC WORKS
OVERLAND PARK, KAN.

Even with the long-disputed federal transportation bill finally being passed in July, finding the money to fix aging infrastructure will be an ongoing challenge for local jurisdictions.

“The economy significantly constrained government's ability to build infrastructure while exacerbating the problem of maintaining what we already own,” explains Doug Brown. “The political and economic environments bode ill for our ability to gain funding to maintain existing infrastructure.”

Despite this, last year Overland Park raised taxes in large part to fund its street-maintenance needs. Brown believes the push to reduce federal and state spending is driving the funding burden down to local governments and their constituents. He has four suggestions for responding to this reality:

  • Lead with integrity
  • Use the “communications explosion” to educate residents and elected officials about the role infrastructure plays in economic health and quality of life.
  • Take full advantage of opportunities — technological or otherwise — to work more efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Make public works a profession that attracts and develops quality leaders for the future.