Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ASCE Releases 2013 Report Card For America's Infrastructure

Mar 19: The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure gave the nation's infrastructure an overall grade of D+, showing slight progress from the D in the last Report Card issued in 2009. It's the first time since ASCE started producing Report Cards in 1998 that the grades rose overall and in several sectors. The report provides our nation's political leaders, policymakers, business leaders, infrastructure stakeholders, the media, and the general public with expert advice from the civil engineering community about the condition of infrastructure across the nation. 

    ASCE President Gregory DiLoreto, P.E. said, "As civil engineers, ASCE believes that we are the stewards of infrastructure -- we designed it, we built it, and we actually oversee the operations and maintenance of it in many cases. So as stewards, we have a responsibility with the Report Card to call attention to the state of the nation's infrastructure. We as Americans need to be proactive in monitoring and taking care of our infrastructure so that it will be here not only for us, but for our children and our grandchildren."

    ASCE has produced four previous Report Cards in 1998, 2001, 2005, and 2009 -- as well as the Progress Report for America's Infrastructure, which was released in 2003. These assessments have highlighted the fact that America's critical infrastructure -- principally its roads, bridges, drinking water systems, mass transit systems, schools, and systems for delivering energy -- may soon fail to meet society's needs.

    ASCE's immediate past president, Andrew Herrmann, P.E., member of the present Advisory Council that produced the 2013 Report Card said, "
Since 1998, ASCE felt an obligation to make a report on the state of infrastructure in the U.S. to show that we are not making the necessary investments to improve it and not even making some of the investments that we need to maintain what we have. We as civil engineering professionals feel that it is our obligation to point out to the White House, Congress, and state and local legislators what is happening to the infrastructure in the U.S." 

    DiLoreto added, "The reason why we want to make improvements to our infrastructure is not just simply to improve the grade. Investment in our infrastructure will help grow our economy; it will create jobs and improve our quality of life. It means being able to get to work easier without sitting in traffic all day long; and continuing to enjoy safe, clean and reliable drinking water anywhere in the country; and having an electrical transmission grid with fewer or no blackouts."

    Individual grades were given in the categories of aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit, and wastewater. Final grades were assigned based on capacity to meet future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. ASCE indicated that the methodology with which this Report Card was produced was a very objective piece of work, not a bunch of people using a gut feeling, but real numbers.
    The Report Card concludes that to raise the grades and get our infrastructure at an acceptable level, a total investment of $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 across the entire 16 sectors. Currently, only about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending is projected, leaving an estimated shortfall of approximately $1.6 trillion.
    According to the Report Card, the following grades were assigned in four major categories: Water & Environment: Dams D; Drinking Water D; Hazardous Waste D; Levees D-; Solid Waste B-; and Wastewater D. Transportation: Aviation D; Bridges C+; Inland Waterways D-; Ports C; Rail C+; Roads D; and Transit D. Public Facilities: Public Parks & Recreation C-; Schools D.
Energy: D+.
    This year's Report Card covers 16 infrastructure categories, and it's being released as a digital application (or app) that includes videos, interactive maps, and other multimedia tools. For the first time, the 2013 Report Card provides information for all 50 states, including examples of initiatives and innovations that are making a difference.
    U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Chairman John (Jay) Rockefeller (D-WV) commented saying his bill, S.387, the American Infrastructure Investment Fund Act, would help fill the investment $1.6 trillion funding gap identified by ASCE. He said, "The fact that our transportation infrastructure is still crumbling should surprise none of my colleagues. We have continued to push off the tough choices we need to make. The government can't meet these vast needs alone. We need to look for responsible ways to partner public funds with private investments. My infrastructure fund would encourage private investment by leveraging federal dollars and plug the funding shortfall that exists because our current funding levels are severely inadequate. I will continue working with my colleagues to develop an approach that maximizes the return on our public and private investments."
    Commenting on the report, U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), Ranking Member on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, commented on the ASCE report and renewed calls for Congress to craft a robust surface transportation bill that provides the investments necessary to tackle the well documented backlog of highway, bridge, and transit infrastructure needs. He said, "While Republicans may hope that if they simply say we are going to 'do more with less' enough times it will magically make it so, today's report provides the cold hard truth that America's economic recovery and long-term competitiveness will suffer if we continue to under invest  in our future. The report paints a disturbing picture of how America's small businesses and middle class family incomes will be affected by our Nation's deteriorating surface transportation systems. Slashing investments by one third, as Republicans have proposed to do, will make the economic impact on America's middle class even worse than the grim predictions by the economists in this report." He indicated that the ASCE report found that America's crumbling surface transportation infrastructure will cost the economy more than 877,000 jobs.    
    National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse said, "This report really makes clear that we're at a crossroads. From a manufacturing perspective we have a very clear choice a head of us. We have a choice as a country, which way do we want to go. Other countries are rapidly investing in new infrastructure projects and the U.S. will only continue to fall further behind and our global competitiveness will pay the price. Countries and governments are saying I want what America has. I'm going to make investments to take away their economic leadership."
    Former Pennsylvania Governor and Co-Chair of Building America's Future, Ed Rendell, who spoke at the press conference, indicated that the World Economic Forum's annual Global Competitiveness report which ranked the U.S. in first place in infrastructure in 2005, but by 2012 he said, "we had fallen to 14th in the world. It is a disgrace that in the richest country in the world we have allowed our infrastructure to virtually crumble from lack of investment."   
    Access a release from ASCE (click here). Access the 2013 ASCE Report Card including grades, state information, videos and interactive charts and links to the apps (click here). Access a release from Sen. Rockefeller with more information on S.387 (click here). Access a release from Rep. Rahall (click here). Access a blog post on the press conference from NAM (click here). Access legislative details for S.387 (click here). [#All, #MIAll]
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