America’s infrastructure is rated as a D-plus — a slight rise from a D grade given in 2009 — according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The 2013 Report Card estimates total investment needs at $3.6 trillion by 2020 across all 16 sectors, leaving a funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion based on current funding levels.
The grades in 2013 range from a high of B-minus for solid waste infrastructure to a low of D-minus for inland waterways and levees. None of the categories received a lower grade than in 2009; however near-failing grades continue to be seen in numerous sectors that are crucial to the economy and Americans’ quality of life.
Encouraging trends were found in sectors where focused investments were made. Six sectors — solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, bridges and rail — each experienced incremental improvements since the last assessment. America’s rail sector saw the largest improvement, moving from a C-minus to a C-plus.
Key trends driving improvements included:
- Private investment for efficiency and connectivity brought improvements in the nation’s railways, ports, and energy grid.
- Several categories benefited from short-term boosts in federal funding.
- Renewed efforts in cities and states to address deficient roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems.
“A D+ is simply unacceptable for anyone serious about strengthening our nation’s economy; however, the 2013 Report Card shows that this problem can be solved. If we want to create jobs, increase trade, and assure the safety of our children, then infrastructure investment is the answer,” said ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, PE.
For the first time, the 2013 Report Card includes information for all 50 states and highlights initiatives and innovations that are making a difference. For example, Oklahoma created a plan to replace or rehabilitate over 950 structurally deficient bridges between 2013 and 2020. Philadelphia implemented a program to improve resiliency and address combined sewer overflows using green infrastructure, capable of capturing water from all but the most severe storms.
“I want to commend ASCE for highlighting the need for urgent investment in our nation’s public transportation infrastructure in their report,” said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy. “The report shows that there are devastating consequences to our economy and to our mobility when we do not make investing in America’s infrastructure a priority.”
Specific findings related to transportation:
- Transit’s grade remained at a D as transit agencies struggled to balance increasing ridership with declining funding, and 45% of American households lack any access to transit. Although access to and investment in transit has increased, deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010. Many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases.
- Rail saw the largest improvement, moving up to a C-plus in 2013. America’s freight rail industry invested more than $20 billion each year from 2009 through 2012 to modernize its network. In 2012, Amtrak recorded its highest year of ridership, benefiting from federal investments in tracks, bridges, tunnels, and increased capacity from both freight and passenger operations.
- Bridges improved to a grade of C-plus given that the overall number of structurally deficient bridges continues to decrease. However, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are still rated as structurally deficient and the numbers in urban areas are rising.