Paving the way to reveal highest social impact investments

CENIT has pioneered a holistic approach to evaluate infrastructure investments using an inclusive Cost Benefit Analysis approach

All new major road and rail investment projects are subject to a set of strict criteria to determine the correct use of public funds and resources in determining which infrastructure investments will reap the highest social benefits. However, with the various public entities subject to this investment assessment using different methodologies, the process has been inefficient and inconsistent. The new methodology led by CENIT’s Sustainability Specialist Javier Garrido will now allow for important road and rail investments to be compared across the board and includes 55 new sustainable transport parameters.

The Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) focuses on infrastructure cost, estimated demand and environmental impact plus certain indirect impacts of transport investment (employment, location of housing and businesses). Only those investments with a net benefit qualify as a transport infrastructure project that will result in an increase in general well-being across the affected population as a whole. Since 2015 the government of Catalonia has done several CBA of the transport infrastructures. With 28 ex – ante evaluations to prioritise investments deemed most beneficial to society and 52 ex – post evaluations, this comprehensive CBA provides real data to evaluate the actual impact of future investments.

“We first developed the tool in 2015 which included many externalities such pollution, climate change, noise, barrier effects amongst others. However, we have detected a need to update the tool to reflect the urban environment in which a large proportion of the infrastructure investments are investments are undertaken due to the exponential growth of urban populations. Many of the new parameters are linked to wellbeing and social inclusion, both being key issues for today´s urban environment” clarifies Garrido.

Given that infrastructure investments have, on average, a 30-year evaluation period, current parameters of the tool have been updated in 2020. The tool abbreviated to SAIT (System of Assessment of Transport Infrastructures), which also includes a manual to facilitate its use, aims to:

Improve evaluation and planning of future investments using a calibrated CBA model
– Provide quality control for a full infrastructure project cycle allowing for the early detection of potential issues in the design phase
Evaluate efficiency of projects and benefits
– Offer transparency for users and the general public in terms of investment and benefits

And what will the future hold? Future challenges include extending the methodology to include both port and airport infrastructure investments which – due to the expansion of our cities – are increasingly becoming integral parts of the urban environment.