ASCE Infrastructure Grade: Why America Nearly Failed

ASCE Report Card

What is the ASCE Report Card?

In 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ASCE, began grading the United States using a standard school format ranging from A to F in a variety of 16 different categories.  The report comes out every four years and the latest report has just been released, and it doesn’t look very promising.  The report card also makes recommendations on how the categories can be improved upon in the future. Here are the 16 categories and how America ranked in each one from the start of the grading until now:

ASCE Report Card
ASCE report card history

Now as far as most of us our concerned, those aren’t the types of grades you want to be bringing home to Mom and Dad.  These are the grades that would get you in trouble and would get some chores piled up on you.

And that is exactly what America needs is chores; or in other words jobs. Infrastructure jobs that will not only improve our crumbling infrastructure system, but improve our national economy.

The report card only came back with one decent grade, which was a B in rail. An improvement over last report card’s C+, and the reasoning was there have been significant investments in improving commercial rail. Commercial rail is responsible for around 1/3rd of our countries exports.

I know some of you may be laughing because you may have breezed through to get your high school diplomas with a C average and feel accomplished, but unfortunately we are now adults, and this grade scales at a national level.

The only issue holding back rail from a higher grade is the commuter rail system, which is suffering from old infrastructure and low funding.

 

Why the Low Grades?

Out of the sixteen grades, seven of them actually saw slight improvements.  Most of these minor improvements were made from strong lawmaking and policies, leadership, and proper funding. As the chart also shows you can see how significantly the cost of improvement has gone up over the years as well peaking at $4.59 trillion. This would be nearly adding nearly 25% to our already sky high national deficit.

Parks had a record high of $11.9 billion in incomplete maintenance work, which is work that does not fall within the time frame set for it. 50% of this 12 billion accounts for parking lots pavement, bridges, tunnels, and structures. The remaining is a variety of categories from monuments to utility systems and many more.

Transit scored the lowest overall on the report card. Anyone who lives within a major city like Los Angeles, Boston, or New York, know how painful it is to sit in traffic for hour on end. Demand is constantly increasing every year with more and more cars getting added onto the road with a record estimated 253 million cars on the road in 2016. This transit grade is specifically for public transportation like buses, subways, and commuter railways. However insufficient or unreasonable public transportation is what causes more people to be on the roads in their daily work commute.

With that said, transit has been clearly underfunded nationwide, and currently has a backlog of $90 billion dollars worth of rehab work. ASCE is estimating that an additional $1.1 trillion is going to be required to get funding up to the proper amount.  That means it would take around 5% of what our national deficit currently is just to properly support this need.

Safety was also a concern of the transit grade, showing that in 2015, 255 people were killed in accidents relating to public transit with most being non-passengers.

Schools, while unchanged are also a clear problem in our nation. Schools are drastically underfunded, with a $38 billion annual gap for funding. The ASCE has estimated more then 50% of public schools nationwide need some more of investment only to be brought up to “good” condition. If there as any place that is worthy of investment, one would imagine the easy pick would be into our children’s educational future.

Energy, the last category we will get into is our specialty coming in at a whopping D+.  We will try to refrain from all of the “I told you so” comments, however the number one recommended solution by the ASCE was adopting a federal energy policy that assesses needed change into “alternative energy sources such as renewables and distributed generation.” Told you so.

The other rather shocking news their investigation turned up was that our nations 640,000 miles of transmission lines are nearly at full capacity with what we have built for infrastructure. That wouldn’t be all that fun if one day they tell you that they don’t have the capacity to support electricity generation at your home.

Fear not however because we have a solution that we have reviewed in one of our other articles right here!

They specify that local solutions of distributed generation will drastically lower the major investments required. Distributed generation are things like local solar farms, wind farms, and other microgrid solutions.

More of the major issues regarding energy touch upon the reliability of the energy systems from severe weather events causing outages, the high cost of maintaining and inspecting the infrastructure due to lack of remote monitoring, and lack of usage of accepted engineered standards. Here is a quick video on the energy grade from the ASCE.

 

ASCE Solution to the Problems

The solutions to how the ASCE expects these problems to be remedied is pretty clear. Investment, leadership, and policy making.  Obviously it is very difficult to convince Congress to dump trillions of dollars into the budget, however these expert engineers believe that may be exactly what we need. First leadership must be clear, then proper bi-partisan policies must be put into place, and finally investment into the infrastructure must be executed. Investment in infrastructure leads to jobs, jobs lead to stimulation of the economy, and a stimulated economy with a satisfied population will in the long term improve how we stand in the total global economy. This will also  in the long term reduce our national deficit, after the initial investment into it, due to a booming jobs market with tax paying individuals and healthy consumer spending.

For those of you who want to check out how your state ranked up against the ASCE Report Card, you can click here for a state-by-state map of the report.

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