U.S. Infrastructure Grade Improves but Funding Gap Widens

“If we take action now, we can generate job growth and build infrastructure that is more reliable, more secure and more resilient while increasing the quality of life for everyone.”   
—  Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D., ASCE President

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report, published once every four years, gave the United States a C- overall grade – up from a D+ in 2017 – marking the first time in two decades that the country has received a grade in the C range. However, the overall grade still means that the nation’s infrastructure is “in mediocre condition, has deficiencies and needs attention.”

The organization also found that the long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow. That gap has risen from $2.1 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of $259 billion per year. The biggest projected gap is in surface transportation, which faces $1.2 trillion in projected unmet needs over 10 years.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that the report card results “tell us something we already know – that we have a long way to go … that we are past the point of allowing Infrastructure Week to be a Washington punchline once again.”

ASCE Executive Director Thomas Smith cautioned that “we have not made significant enough investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago. 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.” “This not a report card anyone would be proud to take home,” he added.

The study evaluated 17 categories of infrastructure, with grades ranging from a B for rail to a D- for transit. The majority of the categories in the report card (11 of the 17) received a grade in the D range: aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater, with transit receiving the lowest grade in the report. The report did have some good news, noting that due to increased investment, the grades for aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, and ports have improved since the last assessment.

Where does California stand in the rankings? ASCE’s last comprehensive assessment of California’s infrastructure was conducted two years ago in 2019. At that time, the ASCE awarded the state’s infrastructure systems a C- grade, marking a drop from the C grade previously earned in 2012. The 2019 grades, which designated California’s infrastructure as “requiring attention,” varied between C+ (for aviation, ports and wastewater) and D (for roads, inland waterways and levees). None of CA’s infrastructure categories were robust enough to earn an A or a B grade.

ASCE called on Congress and the administration to take “big and bold action”on infrastructure quickly and highlighted the role infrastructure investment could play in speeding the nation’s economic recovery. “America’s infrastructure bill is overdue, and we have been ignoring it for years. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbates the funding challenge because state and local governments have had to prioritize public health over everything else for the past year,” said ASCE President Jean-Louis Briaud, Ph.D. “If we take action now, we can generate job growth and build infrastructure that is more reliable, more secure and more resilient while increasing the quality of life for everyone.”

To view the full 2021 report and additional data, click here 

Source: Various

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