Every four years the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases their Infrastructure Report Card to grade the status of the nations’ infrastructure. Everything from aviation to wastewater is assigned a grade, the cumulative grade has improved from 2017 from an awful D+ to a terrible C-. Some modest and incremental improvements in railroads, drinking water systems and inland waterways and ports pushed the US out of the “D” range overall but 11 of the 17 infrastructure categories evaluated were graded in the “D” range, and as recent power and water failures related to brutal winter storms and extreme cold show, showed, many infrastructure systems are increasingly susceptible to catastrophic failure.
The 2021 infrastructure grades are:
- Aviation: D+
- Bridges: C
- Dams: D
- Drinking Water: C-
- Energy: C-
- Hazardous Waste: D+
- Inland Waterways: D+
- Levees: D
- Ports: B+ (highest marks)
- Public Parks: D+
- Rail: B
- Roads: D
- Schools: D+
- Solid Waste: C+
- Stormwater: D
- Transit: D-
- Wastewater: D+
Failure to invest in infostructure costs us dearly. Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution make utilities unreliable. This translates into higher costs for businesses to manufacture and distribute goods and provide services. These higher costs, in turn, get passed along to workers and families. By 2039, America’s overdue infrastructure bill will cost the average American household $3,300 a year. That is in addition to the trillions of dollars lost in GDP and millions of jobs.
The ASCE projects an investment gap of about $2.59 trillion over the next 10 years. To close this, the US must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2025. ASCE recommends the following steps:
- Congress should fully fund authorized infrastructure programs.
- Infrastructure owners and operators must charge, and Americans must be willing to pay, rates reflecting the true cost of using, maintaining, and improving infrastructure.
- The surface transportation investment gap is the largest deficit in the categories of infrastructure that ASCE evaluates. Continuing to defer maintenance and modernization is impacting our ability to compete in a global marketplace and maintain a high quality of living domestically. Congress must fix the Highway Trust Fund.
- All parties should strive to close the rural/urban and underserved community resource divide by ensuring adequate investment in these areas through programmatic set-asides.
- All parties should make use of public-private partnerships, where appropriate.