ROAD CONDITIONS: ASCE report card finds slight improvements in infrastructure

Near-failing grades continue to be seen in numerous sectors that are crucial to the economy and Americans’ quality of life

March 19, 2013

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its 2013 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s infrastructure across 16 sectors. Updated once every four years, this year’s Report Card found that America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+ from a D in 2009. The Report Card estimates total investment needs at $3.6 trillion by 2020 across all 16 sectors, leaving a funding shortfall of $1.6 trillion based on current funding levels.

The grades in 2013 range from a high of B- for solid waste infrastructure to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. None of the categories received a lower grade than in 2009, however near-failing grades continue to be seen in numerous sectors that are crucial to the economy and Americans’ quality of life.

Encouraging trends were found in sectors where focused investments were made. Six sectors (solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, bridges and rail) each experienced incremental improvements since the last assessment. America’s rail sector saw the largest improvement, moving from a C- to a C+.

Key trends driving improvements included:

  • Renewed efforts in cities and states to address deficient roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems;
  • Private investment for efficiency and connectivity brought improvements in the nation’s railways, ports, and energy grid; and
  • Several categories benefited from short-term boosts in federal funding.

“A D+ is simply unacceptable for anyone serious about strengthening our nation’s economy; however, the 2013 Report Card shows that this problem can be solved. If we want to create jobs, increase trade and assure the safety of our children, then infrastructure investment is the answer,” said ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E.

“This Report Card accentuates the need for a long-term, sustainable funding source for surface transportation, moving forward,” said AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright, reacting to the ASCE report. “By connecting greater investment in transportation projects to measurable improvements in efficiency and connectivity, the report demonstrates why adequate infrastructure investment is key to our future economic prosperity.”

“A Report Card grade of a D+ is not indicative of a first-class infrastructure,” said Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and co-chair of Building America’s Future, who spoke at the Report Card unveiling in Washington, D.C. “For years, we’ve known that our roads and bridges are deteriorating and not keeping up with demand, but this Report Card shows that America also has substantial deficiencies in our levees, wastewater systems, drinking water systems, aviation and more. For America to stay competitive in a global economy, we must significantly improve our energy, transportation and water systems.”

For the first time, the 2013 Report Card includes information for all 50 states and highlights initiatives and innovations that are making a difference. For example, Oklahoma created a plan to replace or rehabilitate over 950 structurally deficient bridges between 2013 and 2020. Philadelphia implemented a program to improve resiliency and address combined sewer overflows using green infrastructure, capable of capturing water from all but the most severe storms.

“We must commit today to investing in modern, efficient infrastructure systems to position the U.S. for economic prosperity,” added DiLoreto. “Infrastructure can either be the engine for long-term economic growth and employment, or it can jeopardize our nation’s standing if poor roads, deficient bridges and failing waterways continue to hurt our economy.”

Bridges improved to a grade of C+ given that the overall number of structurally deficient bridges continues to decrease. However, one in nine of the nation’s bridges is still rated as structurally deficient, and the numbers in urban areas are rising.

Roads saw a slight improvement with a grade of D, yet America’s highways face a 42% congestion rate. That congestion costs the economy an estimated $101 billion annually in wasted time and fuel.

Transit’s grade remained at a D as transit agencies struggled to balance increasing ridership with declining funding, and 45% of American households lack any access to transit. Although access to and investment in transit has increased, deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010. Many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases.

To view and download the 2013 “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” visit