Forging Glocal Governance? Urban Infrastructures as Networked Financial Products


Urban infrastructure provisions are increasingly shifting from public good to private property, with cities and regions valued merely on a quarter‐to‐quarter basis. The argument in this article is threefold. The urban infrastructure landscape is undergoing financialization. Additionally, building on Graham and Marvin who describe how infrastructure networks are being unbundled locally, these infrastructures are simultaneously being interlinked internationally via specialist global infrastructure funds. Third, non‐local owners, by abiding by contractual obligations, play an increasing role in the governance of infrastructure projects at the urban scale, and a ‘glocal’ form of governance is developing. These arguments are illustrated by an investigation of the privatized toll road 407 in the Greater Toronto Area, where the leading investment bank in ‘infrastructure’ is one of the global owners. With increased use of the international norms of commercial law and the fluctuating cycle of local, national and supranational politics, a toll‐pricing controversy occurred wherein provincial politics challenged a ‘self‐regulating’ contract encouraging the private owners to increase the toll charges when both the traffic and toll thresholds were met, so as to create congestion relief on this particular road. Road users, provincial and federal Canadian governments, and even the European Union were involved.