Wednesday, March 20, 2013

US infrastructure gets a D+ from civil engineers

The American Society of Civil Engineers gives low grades to U.S. infrastructure -- roads, bridges, water systems, ports, mass transit and the electric grid -- as part of its quadrennial survey.

Solid waste gets the best grade, a B-minus, while inland waterways and levees get the worst, a D-minus.

ASE notes the U.S. aviation system is stretched to capacity:
Despite the effects of the recent recession, commercial enplanements were about 33 million higher in number in 2011 than in 2000, stretching the system’s ability to meet the needs of the nation’s economy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012. If current federal funding levels are maintained, the FAA anticipates that the cost of congestion and delays to the economy will rise from $34 billion in 2020 to $63 billion by 2040.
Ports get a D-plus:
While port authorities and their private sector partners have planned over $46 billion in capital improvements from now until 2016, federal funding has declined for navigable waterways and landside freight connections needed to move goods to and from the ports. 
Rail actually got a C-plus as freight and passenger railroads have been investing in tracks, bridges and tunnels (good news for our brothers and sisters at the BMWED!)
Railroads are experiencing a competitive resurgence as both an energy-efficient freight transportation option and a viable city-to-city passenger service. In 2012, Amtrak recorded its highest year of ridership with 31.2 million passengers, almost doubling ridership since 2000, with growth anticipated to continue. ... In 2010 alone, freight railroads renewed the rails on more than 3,100 miles of railroad track, equivalent to going coast to coast. Since 2009, capital investment from both freight and passenger railroads has exceeded $75 billion, actually increasing investment during the recession when materials prices were lower and trains ran less frequently. 
Roads get a D, no shock to anyone who's driven a car or truck lately:
Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually. While the conditions have improved in the near term, and Federal, state, and local capital investments increased to $91 billion annually, that level of investment is insufficient and still projected to result in a decline in conditions and performance in the long term. Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance. 
Read the whole thing here.