Drivers of Infrastructure Project Outcomes: Governance and Institutional Elements of Transportation Sector Projects in Bogotá, Colombia

PIs: Donald Lessard (Sloan School of Management, MIT) 
       Gabriella Carolini  (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


Infrastructure is critical to sustainable urbanization in cities of the developing world. It provides services complementary to and essential for real estate and industrial investments that contribute to macroeconomic development, as well as generating health and productivity benefits for individuals. Although technical solutions for infrastructure abound, we have a limited understanding of the causal mechanisms that link the processes of governing infrastructure and the institutions in which infrastructure projects are embedded to project outcomes. In metropolitan areas, where the administrative, political, and fiscal responsibilities for infrastructure services become blurred, the institutional elements of infrastructure projects and project governance become increasingly important. Our primary research question contributes to this knowledge frontier by asking: In jurisdictionally fragmented metropolitan areas in the Global South, how do the organizations responsible for project implementation and the institutions in which projects are embedded contribute to project outcomes? 

Within this broad question, we focus on two sub-questions: 1) How do the active participants in infrastructure governance help shape project outcomes? and 2) How do the regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive institutional elements of metropolitan infrastructure affect project continuity? We propose to investigate these questions through the lens of the transportation sector, given the influence of transportation infrastructure and services on land use and values, as well as their contribution to poverty reduction through increased accessibility to jobs and services. Unlike other classes of infrastructure, transportation systems are typically provided by the public sector, exhibit distributed network effects that span multiple political and administrative jurisdictions, and often require extensive organizational coordination. These attributes increase the complexity of project governance and broaden the scope of the institutions that effect project outcomes. 

Our project takes advantage of unique opportunity to investigate project governance and the institutional elements affecting project outcomes by being embedded in the current administration of Mayor Enrique Peñalosa in Bogotá, Colombia. The return of Mayor Peñalosa to office 18 years after he initiated extensive improvements to public and non-motorized transportation systems provides an unusual comparative perspective from which to differentiate between the institutional elements of transportation projects and specific individuals involved in the governance of these systems. We propose three phases of research: 1) Cataloguing of proposed and implemented infrastructure improvements from 1998-Present; 2) Inductive, participant observation based hypothesis generation through direct work with the Peñalosa administration; 3) Multi-method hypothesis testing through continued observation, interviews, and quantitative analysis of transportation project data. 

This project contributes an interdisciplinary perspective that will connect the nested perspectives of international development policy, projects (engineering/construction management) and project governance (including organizational and institutional development). Unlike previous studies, we propose an embedded inductive research design to understand the enabling institutional environment of projects and the organizations that shape project planning and implementation. Finally, by focusing our analysis on projects with metropolitan reach, we offer a new contribution to the analysis of projects that span multiple, overlapping political and administrative jurisdictions in urban areas.