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Report Shows Growing Need for Infrastructure Spending

The U.S. gets a C- grade and the lack of spending is costing taxpayers

Brian Young's picture
Mar 04, 2021

A new report has been released highlighting the crumbling infrastructure in the United States and the immediate need for massive infrastructure spending. While the report details that things are getting slightly better, there are still many concerning areas including the safety of our drinking water.

The report was done by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and has been released every four years since 1998. This year the United States received an overall grade of C-. While still very bad, this was the first time in 20 years that the country received a grade higher than a D.

To develop the grade, the ASCE takes a look at 17 key infrastructure areas including aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, stormwater, transit, and wastewater. They then assign a grade ranging from A-F. In the 2021 report rail got the best grade at a B, while transit got the worst at a D-. The report found that 45% of Americans lack access to transit and that the existing transit infrastructure, like subway tunnels and station facilities, is aging and in need of repair.

In recent weeks, the failure of our country to maintain its infrastructure has become apparent as states like Texas lost power due to winter storms and some residents still don’t have safe drinking water. In Jackson, Mississippi, residents are entering the third week without running water after the city reported 96 water main breaks and leaks following a winter storm. In the report, the ASCE noted that due to a lack of upkeep there is a water main break every 2 minutes in the United States and that 6 billion gallons of treated water are lost every day. The report graded the U.S.’ drinking water infrastructure a C-.

They also gave a C- grade to our energy grid, saying that it is aging with some components now being over 100 years old. This is far past their 50-year life expectancy. While ASCE noted that over the last four years money has been spent to harden the grid from storms and natural disasters, they estimate another $197 billion will be needed by 2029 to fully upgrade the grid and replace out aging transmission infrastructure.

With pothole season here for most of the country, ASCE gave roads a D grade saying that 40% of the nation’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Roads are probably the most visible infrastructure project and anyone who drives knows that from local roads to highways and interstates more money needs to be invested in upkeep. ASCE estimates that deteriorating roads cost motorists $130 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs or about $3,300 per person. Money is also needed to help cities with congestion issues. Drivers in the top 5 most congested cities lost over 100 hours in 2019 sitting in traffic.

The lack of infrastructure funding could also be potentially fatal. According to the report, nearly 10% of bridges in New York were structurally deficient in 2019. That accounts for 17,540 bridges statewide. Many states are also dealing with a majority of dams and levees that are over 50 years old and need to be modernized. In Illinois, the state loses up to 30% of their treated water supply due to water main breaks and in California, the ports, that bring in 40% of all containerized cargo entering the U.S., are in need of $10.7 billion in funding over the next 10 years to harden them against rising sea levels and earthquakes.

With America’s infrastructure in disarray, the need for a big-spending bill is greater than ever before. For union workers, this would also put many to work since federal projects need to meet Davis-Bacon standards of paying a prevailing wage, leading many of these jobs to go union. Leaders from some of the largest building and construction trades unions met with President Joe Biden last month to reiterate the importance of getting something passed after years of inaction. Biden has called for a 10 year $1.3 Trillion infrastructure investment that is expected to be taken up by Congress after they pass a COVID-19 stimulus package.

You can read the full report by clicking here and see what your state’s infrastructure grade is by clicking here.

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