According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), America’s infrastructure scores a “C-” grade. This is a slight improvement from a “D+” in the 2017 report card.
Over the past four years, only modest improvements have been made to our infrastructure with many issues left unsolved. Out of 17 categories, 11 are still in the “D” range.
According to the ASCE, when we fail to pay for improvements in our infrastructure, we pay an even higher price in the end.
“Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution make utilities unreliable. Problems like these translate into higher costs for businesses to manufacture and distribute goods and provide services. These higher costs, in turn, get passed along to workers and families. By 2039, America’s overdue infrastructure bill will cost the average American household $3,300 a year, or $63 a week.”
Underinvestment in infrastructure will also cost the U.S. more than 3 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.
The good news, however, is that improvement is possible with bold action from congress. ASCE urges three main steps for action to take place, and those are:
“Smart investment will only be possible with strong leadership, decisive action, and a clear vision
for our nation’s infrastructure. Leaders from all levels of government, business, labor, and nonprofit organizations must come together to:
- Incentivize asset management and encourage the creation and utilization of infrastructure
data sets across classes.
- Streamline the project permitting process across infrastructure sectors, while ensuring
appropriate safeguards and protections are in place.
- Ensure all investments are spent wisely, prioritizing projects with critical benefits to the
economy, public safety, environment, and quality of life (e.g., sustainability).
- Leverage proven and emerging tech to make use of limited available resources.
- Consider life cycle costs when making project decisions. Life cycle cost analysis determines
the cost of building, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure for its entire life span.
- Support research and development of innovative materials, technologies, and processes
to modernize and extend the life of infrastructure, expedite repairs or replacements, and
promote cost savings. Innovation should include a component of integration and utilization
of big data, as well as the “internet of things.”
- Promote sustainability, or the “triple bottom line” in infrastructure decisions, by considering
the long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits of a project.”
“If the United States is serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the future, some
specific steps must be taken, beginning with increased, long-term, consistent investment. To
close the nearly $2.59 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global
competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private
sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025. This investment must
be consistently and wisely allocated, and must begin with the following steps:
- Congress should fully fund authorized infrastructure programs.
- Infrastructure owners and operators must charge, and Americans must be willing to pay,
rates reflecting the true cost of using, maintaining, and improving infrastructure.
- The surface transportation investment gap is the largest deficit in the categories of
infrastructure that ASCE evaluates. Continuing to defer maintenance and modernization is
impacting our ability to compete in a global marketplace and maintain a high quality of living
domestically. Congress must fix the Highway Trust Fund.
- All parties should strive to close the rural/urban and underserved community resource divide
by ensuring adequate investment in these areas through programmatic set-asides.
- All parties should make use of public-private partnerships, where appropriate.”
“We must utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure can
withstand or quickly recover from natural or man-made hazards. Advancements in resilience across
all infrastructure sectors can be made by:
- Enabling communities, regardless of size, to develop and institute their own resilience
pathway for all their infrastructure portfolios by streamlining asset management,
implementing life cycle cost analysis into routine planning processes, and integrating climate
change projections into long-term goal-setting and capital improvement plans.
- Incentivizing and enforcing the use of codes and standards, which can mitigate risks of major
climate or manmade events such as hurricanes, fires, sea level rise, and more.
- Understanding that our infrastructure is a system of systems and encourage a dynamic,
“big picture” perspective that weighs tradeoffs across infrastructure sectors while keeping
resilience as the chief goal.
- Prioritizing projects that improve the safety and security of systems and communities, to
ensure continued reliability and enhanced resilience.
- Improving land use planning across all levels of decision-making to strike a balance between
the built and natural environments while meeting community needs, now and into the
- Enhancing the resilience of various infrastructure sectors by including or enhancing natural
or “green” infrastructure.”
There is bipartisan support for improving America’s infrastructure, which will in-turn strengthen our manufacturing sector, economy, and overall quality of life.