Civil Engineers Give ‘D’ Grade To Nation’s Infrastructure

One of the key components of any economic recovery package needs to be an investment in infrastructure. As Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said, “We want a recovery that’s solid and based in investment and productivity, and that points us at building things that will serve us decades to come.”

Underscoring how desperately needed infrastructure investment is, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a report today in which it “assigned an overall D grade to the nation’s infrastructure and estimated that it would take a $2.2 trillion investment…over the next five years to bring it into a state of good repair.” Some of the key grades and findings:

Roads got a D-. Americans spend 4.2 billion hours stuck in traffic a year at a cost of $78.2 billion, or $710 for each motorist.

Levees got a D-. Most of them are older than their designed lifespan and privately owned, with repair costs put at $100 billion.

Water facilities, wastewater treatment, and waterways got a D-. Leaky pipes lose an estimated seven billion gallons of clean drinking water every day, while aging sewage systems send billions of gallons of untreated wastewater into waterways each year.

Dams got a D. 4,000 dams were deemed deficient and half of those considered to have “high hazard potential.”

The ASCE also found that more than 25 percent of the nation’s bridges “are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” CleanTech has put together a map showing the extent of the bridge problem; each green dot signifies a bridge that is “structurally deficient”:


This parade of bad news illustrates just how necessary infrastructure investment is, economic woes aside. But the bonus is that these investments provide significant fiscal stimulus “bang for the buck,” with a return of $1.59 for every $1 spent. Of course, some infrastructure projects will take a while to get rolling — and stimulus dollars should not be spent on roads to nowhere — but given the extent of the nation’s economic problems and the jobs it would create, there’s no justification for not devoting a healthy dose of the stimulus towards them.