For the first time in 20 years, the report gives the U.S. an overall 'C-' grade for its infrastructure, and finds the country is spending just over half of what is required to support the backbone of the economy.
The report evaluated 17 categories of infrastructure, with grades ranging from a 'B' for rail to a 'D-' for public transit (the lowest grade in the report).
“We have not made significant enough investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago,” said Thomas Smith, ASCE executive director. “As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses, and manufacturers — and our quality of life — if we don't act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price."
According to the report, approximately 45% of Americans lack access to transit. Meanwhile, much of the existing system is aging, and transit agencies often lack sufficient funds to keep their existing systems in good working order, which ACE says is being compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a 10-year period across the country, 19% of transit vehicles and 6% of fixed guideway elements like tracks and tunnels were rated in “poor” condition. There is also a $176 billion transit backlog, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than $250 billion through 2029, the report states.
To raise the transit grade, the ASCE recommends the following solutions:
- Transit is essential to creating more surface transportation system capacity and should be at the forefront in how communities develop multimodal connectivity. This includes integrating transit and micromobility options with equitable access for all.
- Congress and the Administration should fix the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by adding 25 cents to the current motor fuels user fee over the next five years and then index future increases against inflation using a multi-year rolling average of key indicators, such as the Producer Price Index or Consumer Price Index. As part of the solution to fix the HTF’s funding shortfall, there should be an effort to explore future long-term revenue solutions.
- Increase investment from state and local governments as well as the private sector to reduce the backlog of rehabilitation needs and increase transit mode share. Continue increased investment in federal grant programs that improve and support capital development.
- Encourage the continued implementation of new technology into our transit system to leverage innovation and mobility options. Together, these will continue to expand and enhance the transit ecosystem to provide better access for all communities.
- Apply asset management best practices to minimize long-term lifecycle costs and improve the system’s overall condition.
The "2021 Report Card for America's Infrastructure" was released publicly during a virtual news conference that was followed by ASCE's Solutions Summit. This separate event included spotlights on various infrastructure topics. Featured speakers included U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Sen. Shelley More Capito (R-WV), and Rep.Peter DeFazio (D-OR), among others.