The American Society of Civil Engineers (“ASCE”) has released its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The Report Card assigns a letter grade to sixteen major categories of infrastructure – such as bridges, dams, and roads – based on capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, and resilience. The individual categories ranked by the Report Card range from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. The 2013 Report Card gives the nation’s infrastructure a D+ GPA and estimates that $3.6 trillion in investment will be needed by 2020 to maintain a state of good repair.
The D+ rating is up only slightly from the D GPA given by the ASCE’s last Report Card in 2009. And the study is replete with grim statements. For example, it notes that, “much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life,” “one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient,” and “[f]orty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.”
The ASCE’s President, Gregory E. DiLoreto, notes that much of the nation’s infrastructure was put into place over fifty years ago and is simply “overwhelmed or worn out.” Mr. DiLoreto notes the current backlog of infrastructure projects and deferred maintenance, and he stresses the need for innovative solutions and increased investment. According to Mr. DiLoreto, failure to address these projects will cost American families an estimated $3,100 per year in personal disposable income.
So how does America improve these abysmal grades? According to the ASCE, the solution is simple – “when investments are made and projects move forward, the grades rise.” With many cash-strapped states now looking to public-private partnerships to address their infrastructure needs, perhaps the 2017 Report Card will be an improvement.