Despite dismal grades on the latest “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” spotlighting the need for investment, the American Society of Civil Engineers is encouraged by what’s happening on the federal, state, and municipal levels.
The recent Oroville Dam spillway collapse, the sinking Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, and the disruptive and long-term Metro maintenance in DC all showcase a common theme: America’s infrastructure could use some upkeep. And the American Society of Civil Engineers’ newly released “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” reflects that.
ASCE gave the nation a D+ for the condition and performance of its infrastructure —that’s the same grade it earned back in 2013. Released every four years, the ASCE report grades the nation on 16 areas of infrastructure—from roads and bridges to dams and rails. It gives both an overall grade, as well as separate grades to each infrastructure area. Transit received the lowest mark of all infrastructure areas.
“That was the worst offender with a low grade of D-, and that’s because a lot of our transit systems have gotten older, as have a lot of our infrastructure systems, but their conditions continue to deteriorate,” said ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei. “We’re deferring maintenance. The longer you defer maintenance, the more it’s going to cost you to get that transit system and that transit line back in the condition you need it to be in order to provide consistent, reliable service for the people that continue to take the bus or the metro system.”
This report, Mattei said, is geared toward two audiences. The first is policymakers—such as elected officials at the federal, state, county, and city levels—because it gives them trustworthy information from a reputable source about the state of infrastructure, which they can use in legislation and in appealing to voters. But the report is also for the general public. Failing or inadequate infrastructure costs American families an average of $3,400, she said, on things like car maintenance, gas, and even time.
Still, despite the poor marks and long road of work ahead, Mattei is encouraged about the momentum behind infrastructure investment. At least 15 states are considering raising their gas taxes in order to fund infrastructure, and some of that is due to ASCE’s sections, which have been active in promoting state report cards.
“We like to think there’s a correlation between an educated public at the state level on the condition of the infrastructure and a willingness for them to vote for an increase in the state’s gas tax,” said Mattei. “And at the federal level, we’ve got the president and congress talking infrastructure, so I’m very hopeful.”