ASCE Releases Infrastructure Grades for 2017

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) today released its 4-year report on the health of our nation’s infrastructure. What grade is the U.S. making? The same grade we got in 2013: a D+.

The American Infrastructure Report Card looks at 16 different categories of the government that make up the infrastructure Americans use on a daily basis. Then, over a span of four years, the ASCE grades them.

Casey Dinges, senior managing director for the ASCE, said he doesn’t think Americans will be surprised about the low grade, “because the public has to experience the impact of this grade of D+ on a daily basis,” like a congested highway, or “worrying about a dam or levee that could break nearby."

The ASCE considers a B+ an adequate grade. If the country could raise that D+ to a B by 2025, it would cost over $4.5 trillion, according to the report.

So, what’s in the D+ grade? Grades are assigned using the following criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation. “Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds,” according to the report.

The sector suffering the most is transit, chiefly public transit. New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago are all target cities in need of serious investments. Dinges said Washington, D.C.’s metro is no different. “In the nation’s capitol, we’ve seen major issues," he said. It’s only a 40-year-old system, but without dedicated maintenance, problems will continue.

“But we are seeing areas of improvement,” Dinges said. “LA is using a self-imposed sales tax to make investments. We’ve seen Seattle and Denver with big transit investments.” Programs at the state and city level can do a lot to turn a D grade into a C, and maybe into a B.

In order to pull our grade up to a B, the ASCE laid out three main recommendations: invest, leadership and planning, and preparing for the future.

ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei said, “While our nation’s infrastructure problems are significant, they are solvable.” One thing the ASCE recommended is raising the national gas tax, which hasn’t been adjusted since 1993. That tax could cover half of the investment gap for our nation’s infrastructure. What’s more, the ASCE said 90 percent of gas taxes return to state coffers for things like road repair and maintenance.

The ASCE is also keeping an eye out for the release of President Donald Trump’s budget for the 2018 fiscal year. It will be looking for existing programs that the president can ask Congress to fund, either through discretionary spending or a new infrastructure bill.