ASCE Infrastructure Report Card a Call to Action

SurfaceTransportation_Web-2 (1)In early March, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Television news programs, newspapers and trade magazines covered the announcement for a few days and provided plenty of highlights. Within a week or so, the coverage tapered off and, as so often happens, the story receded in the public consciousness. It should not. ASCE has given us a call to action.

The ASCE  Infrastructure Report Card is updated every four years and assigns simple A to F letter grades that provide a revealing look at the progress – or lack of progress – in sustaining America’s infrastructure. The Report Card is comprehensive, evaluating roads and bridges as well as transit, rail, dams, levees, inland ports, aviation and other major infrastructure categories. Additionally, ASCE provides an overview and comparison of the same infrastructure categories for individual states.

In the weeks ahead, OCIA will drill deeper into the 2017 Report Card, taking a closer look at ASCE’s assessment of roads and bridges throughout America and here in Ohio. ASCE’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure Infographic, is a good place to start. Based on data from the Report Card, the Infographic demonstrates how road conditions and a lack of adequate highway funding affect all of us as motorists and users of public transportation. It also offers specific solutions for improvement. Here are the highlights:

  • Letter grades for America’s surface transportation infrastructure are: Bridges C+, Roads D, and Transit D-
  • 56,000 of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and 188 million trips are taken on them annually
  • 2 out of 5 miles of the nation’s Interstates are congested, resulting in 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic or 42 hours per driver
  • 21% of the nation’s highways are in poor condition costing motorists $121 billion per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs

The takeaway point: Investment in surface transportation is not keeping up with America’s needs. Despite estimated funding $941 billion, total needs exceed $2 trillion resulting in a $1.1 trillion investment gap.

ASCE proposes the following solutions to improve conditions and ultimately raise the grades:

  • Fix the Federal Highway Trust Fund by raising the federal motor fuels tax, and explore alternative, long-term funding mechanisms.
  • Increase investment at all levels of government to reduce the backlog of infrastructure rehabilitation needs.
  • Use asset management best practices to prioritize projects and improve the condition, security and safety of assets while minimizing costs over its entire life span.

The ASCE recommendations are comprehensive, pragmatic and bold. They have to be. The deterioration of America’s infrastructure didn’t happen overnight but progressed gradually over many years. Reversing the situation will require major initiatives operating in unison: increasing revenue, investing in infrastructure at federal, state and local levels, and managing the investment wisely. America needs a call to action. The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card provides one that is loud and clear.


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