ASCE gives US infrastructure a poor grade - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

American Society of Civil Engineers gives US infrastructure a poor grade

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America's infrastructure has earned a D+ from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said Congress must do something about it.

The ASCE released its annual report card March 19 after reviewing 16 categories of American infrastructure over the past four years. This year's report found 42 percent of U.S. highways are congested, costing more than $100 billion in wasted fuel annually. Congestion at U.S. airports costs nearly $22 billion annually. Bridges were among the highest-ranked infrastructure categories with a C+ grade, but one in nine bridges across the country were found to be structurally deficient.

"It has been four years since America earned a D for the state of our infrastructure and it should be little surprise that after maintaining relatively flat infrastructure funding since that time, we are maintaining our place at the back of the class," said Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"While our infrastructure grades have remained stagnant, the consequences of our under investment have only been magnified," he said. "As this report reveals, we are spending even more time sitting in endless traffic, our communities are losing money to patch older infrastructure we should be replacing and, worst of all, our failure to invest in our infrastructure is costing us jobs at a time when millions of Americans are desperately seeking employment."

According to the ASCE report's executive summary, the grades for 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads and bridges all saw incremental improvements from the last report four years ago, and rail jumped from C- to C+. No categories saw a decline in grade in the 2013 report.

"The 2013 Report Card demonstrates that we can improve the current condition of our nation's infrastructure; when investments are made and projects move forward, the grades rise," according to the executive summary. "For example, greater private investment for efficiency and connectivity brought improvements in the rail category; renewed efforts in cities and states helped address some of the nation's most vulnerable bridges; and several categories benefited from short-term boosts in federal funding."

The 16 categories reviewed in the 2013 Report Card are: dams (D), drinking water (D), hazardous waste (D), levees (D-), solid waste (B-), wastewater (D), aviation (D), bridges (C+), inland waterways (D-), ports (C), rail, (C+), roads (D), transit (D), public parks and recreation (C-),  schools (D) and energy (D+).

Rahall wants Congress to make the necessary investments to "tackle the well-documented backlog" of infrastructure needs.

"It is high time that we move beyond just rhetoric when it comes to the state of our infrastructure and recognize that it is about the money," Rahall said. "Later this week, the House will consider a budget that essentially eliminates federal investment in our roads and transit systems in FY 2015.

"If we do not find the political will to beat back these ideological proposals and increase investment in infrastructure, we will again find ourselves brining up the rear four years from now."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., issued a statement about the report late March 19. He said investments need to be made in the nation's infrastructure.

"The fact that our transportation infrastructure in West Virginia is still crumbling should be a continuing call to action," Rockefeller said in a statement. "The government can't meet these vast needs alone. 

"We need to look for responsible ways to partner public funds with private investments to improve West Virginia's transportation infrastructure."

Rockefeller is pushing support for the Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, which would, among other things, set up a fund within the Department of Transportation to leverage federal dollars to incentivize private investment as well as Authorize a multimodal National Infrastructure Investment Grant program within the DOT.