In its quadrennial review of the state of American infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the nation’s ports, bridges, airports, and other key systems a D+ rating. While this rating is an alarming testament to the need for increased investment in a spectrum of infrastructure projects across the country, calculated to be a whopping $4.59 trillion dollars by the report’s estimate, it is not an altogether unsurprising assessment. The 2013 average rating was also a D+, only a slight improvement from the D rating ASCE gave out in 2009 and 2005. American infrastructure has become a familiar punching bag for both sides of the aisle; the newly ASCE report card simply confirms what is already known.
The 2017 report card scores sixteen categories of infrastructure ranging from transit and wastewater to schools and public parks. Rail infrastructure received the highest grade, a B, while transit received the worst grade, a D-. Six categories stayed unchanged from their 2013 ranks, while parks, solid waste, and transit all declined in quality since the last assessment. See the full report here.
Published days after President Trump renewed calls for a one trillion dollar investment in infrastructure programs, and in the midst of a frenzy of congressional hearings seeking input on the best way to finance the ambitious plan, ASCE’s report comes at a crucial time for infrastructure reform. While opportune, the report’s real value will be measured by its ability to spur Congress and the Administration into action. That the country’s infrastructure needs are skyrocketing is hardly headline news; whether or not Washington will heed the repeated warnings of industry experts, however, remains the crucial unknown. If it does, the important question is still how the investment will be funded.