Every four years, America gets its report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The 2021 Infrastructure Report Card score: C-. It has been hovering around the C and D territory for decades.
The Infrastructure Report Card is a massive undertaking to assess the 18 critical areas of focus from stormwater to waste, transit, bridges and broadband. Every time it is published the same conclusion is drawn: America’s infrastructure is crumbling. While some grades have remained rather static for years and others have seen a slight uptick, the funding is simply not keeping up with the amount of work required.
In all, the grade paints a stark picture – crumbling infrastructure has dire consequences on public safety and trade. Both major political parties in the U.S. have identified infrastructure as a bipartisan issue and goal. Former U.S. President Donald Trump vowed $1 Trillion in infrastructure investment and crossed the aisle to discuss the importance of the issue.
Now, U.S. President Joe Biden has his own infrastructure plans and is vowing $2 Trillion to the plan while actively meeting with bipartisan lawmakers. is making it a goal to help fund American infrastructure projects – a cost ASCE estimates to hit $6 trillion dollars in the next decade. Lawmakers and large publications regularly cite the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card – the depth and breadth of the report is unparalleled.
President Biden recently visited Louisiana to get an understanding of infrastructure needs, notably the roads and bridges of the Pelican State.
As TIMES reporter Bruce Van Voorst Washington stated: Potholes are blacktop boobytraps.
“America’s road system is a marvel and a mess,” he wrote. “With 3.9 million miles of highways and roads, many of them built in the asphalt rush of the 1950s, it is by far the world’s biggest system.”
“It is absolutely critical that America begins to improve roads and bridges to enhance motorist and pedestrian safety and also to decrease the cost of trade in our nation,” said Kelly Sills, owner of Coastal Bridge in Louisiana, which specializes – among other things – in heavy civil projects like building roads and bridges.
An assessment by Land Line magazine of a recent survey conducted by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association found that members spend around $5,000 annually on repairs to damage caused by “suboptimal” road conditions.
“Being a business owner comes with so many responsibilities. For truck drivers and companies to have to pay additional costs due poor road conditions seems like an additional – and unnecessary – layer to business expense,” Kelly Sills said.
Joseph Evangelist is a transportation executive with decades of experience. Now serving as executive vice president of Transervice, he regularly blogs about issues facing the trucking industry.
“Whether steps will be taken to improve the infrastructure remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the continuing deterioration of the country’s infrastructure will have a significant impact in businesses and on the trucking industry,” he wrote.
While the grade for bridges is one of the few areas to see slight improvement, the report still shows that many are simply unsafe.
According to the report: Of the 617,000 bridges across the United States, 42% of them are at least 50 years old, and 46,154, or 7.5% of the nation’s bridges, are considered structurally deficient – in “poor” condition.
One hundred seventy eight million trips are taken across those structurally questionable bridges. There has been some emphasis during recent years to address bridge improvements, but those have slowed, according to the report.
“A recent estimate for the nation’s backlog of bridge repair needs is $125 billion. We need to increase spending on bridge rehabilitation from $14.4 billion annually to $22.7 billion annually, or by 58%, if we are to improve the condition,” per the report.
Roads, on the other hand, received a “D” grade. A critical lifeline to trade and transit, 40% are now in poor or mediocre condition.
The report cites poor road conditions as contributing to some of the nation’s traffic fatalities.
“Public safety and ease of trade are intrinsic to the American mindset and the pursuit of the American dream. The work of Coastal Bridge is important. We take our job of improving the safety and connectivity of our home seriously,” Sills added.