Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) releases its Infrastructure Report Card, which grades the condition and performance of infrastructure in the United States. In recent years, the news has not been good; the 2017 Report Card gives American infrastructure a D-plus grade, which is the same score seen in the last Report Card in 2013.
According to the ASCE, this reflects a continuing need for an overhaul of infrastructure in the United States. However, there is optimism that this overhaul is possible, and the hope is that the U.S. government will prioritize such an investment.
This investment would not be cheap, however. The Report Card estimates that U.S. infrastructure currently needs a total of $2 trillion across 16 categories through 2025. However, it also estimates that doing nothing could lead to a $3.9 trillion hit to the gross domestic product, $7 trillion in lost business sales and 2.5 million lost jobs in that same time frame.
The 16 categories of American infrastructure are aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater. Of those categories, rail received the highest grade (B) while transit received the lowest (D-minus).
“We are underfunded in our infrastructure, so the No. 1 solution is that we have to increase our investment in infrastructure, and we have to do that at all levels—at the federal, at the state and at the local level,” said Greg DiLoreto, former ASCE president and current chair of the Committee on America’s Infrastructure (CAI) team that assembled the Report Card. “Those increases are going to be as a result of an actual enactment of legislation to create those. So we need our elected officials to be leaders and say, ‘this is really important.’ And we need the American public to say, ‘this is important.’”
The Report Card was prepared by a team of 28 civil engineers in the United States, and the CAI team gathered all the data and assigned the final grades using criteria such as capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation.
While the findings of the Report Card may have been troubling, the general tone of the ASCE is hopeful.
“I think now we just need to strike while the iron’s hot,” said Tom Smith, executive director, ASCE. “There’s a lot of good discussion taking place on infrastructure. We’ve got to make sure we convert that to action with the new administration and Congress.”
The entire report card can be found at www.infrastructurereportcard.org/.