ASCE’s Report Card should guide infrastructure revitalization and expansion

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and their 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the country’s total infrastructure needs over the next 10 years is nearly $6 trillion. After acknowledging various sources of committed funding, ASCE measures the gap to meet those needs as $2.59 trillion. To indicate the payback that infrastructure revitalization would have, ASCE estimates that if the gap is not addressed, America’s overdue infrastructure bill will cost each American household approximately $3,300 per year, or $63 per week.

In the latest quadrennial report, the nation earned a “C-,” up from 2017’s overall grade of “D+.” The highest grade was the “B” in the rail category where capital improvements are usually privately funded by industries benefiting from the infrastructure. The lowest grade was the “D-” for the nation’s transit systems, which are usually publicly funded and subject to short-range political considerations. The Report Card covers 17 categories of infrastructure pertinent to all Americans and includes a new stormwater chapter and a spotlight on broadband.

Between 2017 and 2021, five category grades increased while only the bridge category decreased in quality. While the overall score would seem to indicate that infrastructure investment in the US is trending upwards, ASCE recognizes that more attention to funding and procedures is needed to improve the overall infrastructure network.

According to ASCE, many sectors, especially those with lower grades, have staggering maintenance backlogs. The report stresses that the implementation of asset management systems can be helpful for these categories to ensure maintenance needs are taken care of when necessary. The report acknowledges that resilience must be a priority as the ability to withstand or recover from extreme events is key to infrastructure preservation, economic stability, and human survival. With such large backlogs, developing a clear understanding of where available funds are most needed is essential for protecting lives and maintaining a productive economy.

ASCE calls for strong federal, state, and local leadership and investment in infrastructure to close this gap. Because of federal funding deficiencies since the last report card and the lack of political will at the state and local levels to identify sources of investment, the infrastructure funding gap can only be closed with a significant change in the process. A long-term effort to close the funding gap and safeguard America’s economy and environment will only happen with new leadership prioritizing infrastructure revitalization and expansion.

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