As quoted on the ASCE website (permission granted by ASCE for reprint and publication), “The American Society of Civil Engineers is committed to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and as such, is equally committed to improving the nation’s public infrastructure. To achieve that goal, the Report Card depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card—assigning letter grades that are based on physical condition and needed fiscal investments for improvement.”

As Americans, we often don’t acknowledge the members of professional organizations who directly contribute to quality and safety of vital, everyday necessities in our lives.  Aviation, bridges and dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, parks and recreation, railways, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater are the main infrastructure categories every family, community and business need in order to thrive.  From power lines connected to your house to the electrical grid spanning the continent, or the street in front of your home to the national highway system, all are relevant to the quality of our daily existence.  As America builds, maintains and rebuilds our aging infrastructure, we rely on the expertise and ingenuity of our civil engineers to determine the structural integrity of our designs and systems.

In the ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs.  They also make recommendations for how to raise the grades through investments to move projects forward. Unfortunately, since 1998 the grades have been near failing, averaging “D’s” due to decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure with delayed maintenance.

For 2017, the averaged GPA remained a “D+ as it has rated the past several years, which demonstrates the continued potential for improvement from our nation’s current infrastructure conditions.  Despite the low grades, no categories saw a decline the past 4 years. Amazingly Rail had the highest score of B, due to increased public and private investment. Funding for freight and passenger rail has been growing over the past several years. Despite this increase in funding, the amount needed to maintain, modernize, and expand capacity in still in dire straits.   Rail accidents and derailments are down nearly 50% over the last decade due to major safety improvements, such as reconfiguring highway-rail crossings to separate the two and improve safety.  Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, railways and bridges all saw minimal improvements; however the quality of drinking water supply (a “D”) reflects the aged piping that needs to be replaced in order to maintain the healthy quality of the actual drinking water.  If the aged, breaking water mains (pipes) aren’t adequately replaced, we suffer breakage and exposure to contaminants in our water supply.

Infrastructure is not only important for our safety and welfare, it’s critical for our country’s long-term economic growth, employment, household income, and exports. Likewise, if we don’t prioritize our infrastructure needs, deteriorating conditions become a drain on the economy.  To review the latest “Report Card On America’s Infrastructure”, please visit  http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/.