If America’s Infrastructure Were a Student, It Would Be Failing Out
For the second time in a row, America’s infrastructure received a near-failing grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
The 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the performance and condition of the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+, up from a D in 2009. That kind of “progress” wouldn’t impress a parent, and it should be downright disappointing to the American people.
A few shocking highlights:
- The average age of the 84,000 dams in the country is 52 years old. The nation’s dams are aging and the number of high-hazard dams is on the rise. The number of deficient dams is estimated at more than 4,000, which includes 2,000 deficient high-hazard dams.
- Much of our drinking water infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States. Assuming every pipe would need to be replaced, the cost over the coming decades could reach more than $1 trillion, according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA).
- Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.
- Over two hundred million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions. In total, one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years.
The ASCE study, updated every four years, evaluated 16 sectors that include solid waste, the power grid, drinking water, wastewater, roads and bridges. An Advisory Council of ASCE members assigns grades in each category according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.
The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+.
No categories saw a decline in grade this year, so the weakened infrastructure we have left is hanging in there…for now. Still, ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E. calls the results “simply unacceptable.”
“Infrastructure can either be the engine for long-term economic growth and employment, or, it can jeopardize our nation’s standing if poor roads, deficient bridges, and failing waterways continue to hurt our economy,” said DiLoreto. If America doesn’t find a way to inject over $3 trillion into its own infrastructure in the next 7 years, the next report may read all F’s. And there’s no extra credit in this class.
It’s time to make some hard decisions about where the money’s going. Our infrastructure is literally crumbling to the ground–infrastructure each and every one of us needs to survive. Yet a vast majority of our budget is earmarked for a bloated military and subsidies for fossil fuel companies already swimming in profit.
Budgeting is all about priorities. Whether it’s a family or a nation, there’s only so much money to go around. The responsibility of those in charge is to decide which expenditures are absolutely necessary and which aren’t. In America, it appears, our priorities are more than a little messed up.
Read the ASCE’s full report, including state-by-state breakdowns, at www.infrastructurereportcard.org
Image via Thinkstock