Redevelopment of Transport Infrastructure as Driver for Accelerating Societal Transitions A Regenerative Perspective on Infrastructure Planning

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The planning and development of transport infrastructure networks increasingly involves environmental degradation, climatic impacts and societal trends. However, infrastructure planning has mainly focused on the gradual improvement and expansion of transport infrastructure networks themselves. In practice, infrastructure planners have rarely reflected on the role of infrastructure networks in enabling or constraining broader sustainability transitions. This may be about to change. In many Western countries transport infrastructure networks have been developed in the early to mid-twentieth century and much infrastructure approaches its ‘best before’ date and enters the phase of transition and renewal. That much transport infrastructure is physically deteriorating and changing as a result of ageing is clear: in the USA a considerable part of the 1 trillion dollar Infrastructure Plan of the Biden administration will be invested into infrastructure renewal, in Germany plans are afoot to increase investments into the renewal of the railway network of over 50% up to 86 billion euro, and in the Netherlands the Replacement and Renovation Program of Rijkswaterstaat of 1 billion euro a year is expected to grow vastly (Hijdra et al., 2015). The significant need of infrastructure refurbishment presents a ‘window of opportunity’ to broaden the infrastructure redevelopment options in order to enable wider sustainability transitions. That is, transport infrastructure renewal could create conditions favouring, for example, on-going transitions such as the energy transition or the transition towards a circular economy. A growing amount of literature emphasizes that investments in the transport infrastructure network can be utilized as a driver for accelerating wider transitions (e.g., Hijdra et al., 2015; Leendertse et al., 2016; Arts et al. 2021). Given the fact that transport infrastructure investments are often location-specific and project-based, it is important to not only focus on the institutional conditions of the infrastructure system in isolation, but more focus on how transport infrastructure renewal projects relate to spatial developments instigated on the basis of transitions in other systems.