By: Mike Matichich, CH2M Practice Area Lead for Financial Services consulting

I am excited to announce that the first in a series of white papers was released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), as part of a study commissioned by the Ford Foundation to identify ways to accelerate implementation of High Road infrastructure projects. High Road projects are ones that address important community needs, such as transportation improvements and providing quality water and sewer service, while also providing important social benefits like creating meaningful jobs for local low-income residents and using local contractors. I was honored to be invited by NRDC to join its team for this important study, based on CH2M’s proactive engagement in a number of related efforts.

The High Road effort benefited by spirited dialogue among the diverse team members that NRDC assembled for this project. We also benefited from some direct research conducted, from case examples provided by partners, including the Cities of Denver and Los Angeles, and from input from a very engaged and insightful peer review panel.

In our research, the team identified steps which cities can take to ‘unstick’ the backlog of High Road projects. For many cities, advancing more of these projects will require some new technical skill sets, new partnerships and changes in procurement processes, as well as culture to embed High Road standards. Doing so will help level the playing field for responding teams, and may require cities to step outside of their comfort level with traditional project financing and delivery models deployed for many years. While this sounds daunting, and it is, we found that there are steps that cities whose political and administrative leaders are focused on this as a priority issue can take immediately to overcome the barriers and gain some early wins in advancing more High Road projects. Additionally, we identified a systematic pre-development process that cities can use to increase their opportunities to implement more High Road projects and reduce the time required to do so.

Later papers in the series will provide additional details on the recommended pre-development process, resource requirements and skills required to advance more High Road projects and more detailed case examples. This initial paper lays the foundation by summarizing overall study findings and the recommended process.

At CH2M, we look forward to putting the insights from the High Road effort to early use. We are holding meetings beginning this week to identify direct applications of High Road principles and funding sources, as part of the firm’s Great City Solutions initiative.

Mike Matichich serves as the firm wide Practice Area Lead for Financial Services consulting at CH2M. He has more than 30 years of experience in helping clients develop and implement financing and funding strategies for their infrastructure development programs. The Financial Services team that he leads helps clients consider and implement the full gamut of financing solutions, from traditional municipal borrowing to emerging forms of private capital for infrastructure delivery.