HDR is sponsoring new research into the economics of equity in decision making on major infrastructure projects including transportation, water, flood protection, energy and more. Principal Economist Chris Behr, LEED AP, who received one of six HDR fellowship awards this year, is leading the project.

Behr and his team will develop methods for systematically assessing the distribution of benefits and costs to people who are positively and negatively affected by projects. A key focus of this work involves determining how best to augment benefit-cost analyses in ways that account for equity. Ultimately, the aim of this work is to help public agencies better understand a project’s value from an equity perspective and to support their efforts to compete for public funding.

“Standard benefit-cost analyses assume that all people place the same value on project outcomes,” Behr said. “In reality, a dollar is worth more to someone with two minimum-wage jobs than to a CEO. Equity-adjusted benefit-cost analyses reveal the differences in value of outcomes to people and provide a broader perspective on the total value of proposed projects. With this approach, agencies can assess the equity value of a single project and compare equity across project options.”

On May 20, HDR officially kicked off the research fellowship with an inaugural meeting of its nine-member advisory panel of prominent academic economists and practitioners. The research project is scheduled to conclude at the end of this year. HDR’s Fellowship program provides staff with the opportunity and resources to develop creative solutions to technical and design issues facing our clients and the industry.

“This research will give our clients another tool to meaningfully evaluate and incorporate equity into infrastructure decision-making,” said Transportation Equity Director Cathy LaFata. “The investment in this fellowship shows HDR’s robust support for advancing equity at every stage of the infrastructure life cycle.”

HDR is an industry leader in delivering integrated equity solutions and environmental justice services for infrastructure programs and projects. Recent equity-focused projects include the Oregon Department of Transportation’s social equity white paper; the CONNECT Beyond transit plan in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area; and the Interstate 579 Urban Open Space Cap in Pittsburgh.

About HDR 

For over a century, HDR has partnered with clients to shape communities and push the boundaries of what’s possible. Our expertise spans more than 11,000 employees in more than 200 locations around the world — and counting. Our engineering, architecture, environmental and construction services bring an impressive breadth of knowledge to every project. Our optimistic approach to finding innovative solutions defined our past and drives our future. For more information, please visit www.hdrinc.com.

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