This article explores the affective force of infrastructural intervention. It focuses on the construction, successful in one case, locally stalled in the other, of so-called ‘independent roads’ along Kyrgyzstan's porous land-border with Tajikistan. Chinese-built and funded through an array of international lending organisations, such roads are determinate interventions in the social life of a marginal border region. They are also the site of intense local anticipation: the object both of hope for a materially secure future and of anxieties of entrapment. The very alignments that enable a new road to come into being – the mobilising of elected representatives, the appeal to languages of abandonment and territorial loss – are themselves anticipatory and experimental moves. The category of ‘infrastructural hope’ is developed to explore this articulation of material politics with diffuse elite and vernacular desires for a territorially secure future. The article considers the implications of this entanglement for the anthropology of infrastructure and for the analysis of trans-boundary tension in Central Asia.