Civil Engineers Sound Alarm Bells on Condition of Infrastructure


Our country’s infrastructure received a nearly-failing D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The report card was released as the aggregates and construction industries gathered in Las Vegas for the 2017 National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA) Annual Convention and ConExpo-Con/Agg.

“This has to be a wake-up call for Congress. Our families and friends are using dangerously old roads, highways and bridges every day,” said Michael W. Johnson, NSSGA president and CEO. “We hope that Congress and the president take this report seriously and make a significant investment in America’s infrastructure, because doing so creates jobs, builds up our economy and makes our transportation network safe.”

President Trump has promised a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next decade, but the ASCE estimates that $4.59 trillion is needed to improve infrastructure to a good level by 2025. If the current spending levels outlined in the FAST Act hold steady, the country will still fall short of that figure by $2 trillion.

Sixteen categories of infrastructure were graded in the report card. America’s transit had the worst grade, a D-, and railways earned a B, the highest on the report card.

Aviation, dams and roads all received D grades, and bridges and ports each earned C+ grades.

The U.S. has been underfunding its highway system for years, resulting in a $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs, the report stated. The bulk of the backlog ($420 billion) is in repairing existing highways, while $123 billion is needed for bridge repair, $167 billion for system expansion, and $126 for system enhancement (which includes safety enhancements, operational improvements and environmental projects). 

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements returns $5.20 in the form of lower vehicle maintenance costs, decreased delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, lower road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

ASCE recommends that the U.S.:

  • Increase funding from all levels of government and the private sector to tackle the massive backlog of highway needs.
  • Fix the federal Highway Trust Fund by raising the federal motor fuels tax. To ensure long-term, sustainable funding for the federal surface transportation program, the current user fee of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel should be raised and tied to inflation to restore its purchasing power, fill the funding deficit, and ensure reliable funding for the future.
  • Tackle congestion through policies and technologies that maximize the capacity of the existing road network and create an integrated, multimodal transportation system.
  • Prioritize maintenance and the state of good repair to maximize the lifespan of roads.
  • State and local governments should ensure their funding mechanisms (motor fuel taxes or other) are sufficient to fund their needed investment.
  • All levels of government need to think long-term about how to fund their roads and consider potential alternatives to the motor fuel taxes, including further study and piloting of mileage-based user fees.
  • Increase investment and expand the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program to find new ways and further propagate existing methods to make roads safe for all users.

Read the report card at www.infrastructurereportcard.org.