This year at the Transportation and Economic Development Committee at TRB, I had the benefit of hearing a presentation by Binjam Reja of the World Bank about the One Belt One Road Initiative. For those, like me, who haven't been plugged into the intersection of international development, geopolitics, and transportation -- the "B&R" is a massive infrastructure iniative launched by China with the intent of strengthening both land and maritime connection between China and other major Eurasian economies. The corridor-based multimodal framework for investment in infrastructure is intended to improve connectivity among 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and about 40 percent of global GDP. There is substantial funding behind this still emerging effort:
For me, the most interesting part of the discussion was a considering how countries other than China need to think strategically about the best way to engage with the B&R to sustainabily addresses their own economic development strategies:
This is particularly important for counties in the middle of corridors that run between major economic anchors--so that they benefit from new increments in accessibility, rather than just serving as "pass through" territory. Mr. Reja also pointed out how funding is incentivizing new forms of cooperative thought and longer-term planning within and among countries. The group also discussed the importance of recognizing full lifecycle costs of infrastructure when choosing to invest in new or upgraded infrastructure--a common challenge regardless of what country you may be working in.