If the public had taken bridge and roads for granted, the Minneapolis I-35 bridge collapse in August 2007 opened many eyes to the sorry state of our nation’s infrastructure. This tragic but blatant disaster was an extreme example of the real-life ramifications of deteriorating roads, bridges, and other public transportation networks.

In its recently released 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has assigned a cumulative grade of “D” – or “poor” to our nation’s infrastructure, which encompasses 15 specific categories, including roads, bridges, water systems, and even schools (see sidebar).

“Decades of underfunding and inattention have jeopardized the ability of our nation’s infrastructure to support our economy and facilitate our way of life,” according to an ASCE press release.

There has been little change in the condition of the nation’s infrastructure since the last report card, which was issued in 2005.

Deteriorating conditions and inflation have added hundreds of billions of dollars to the cost of repairs and needed upgrades: $2.2 trillion dollars, up from $1.6 trillion in 2005. The $2.2 trillion price tag is particularly staggering when measured against the (seemingly insignificant) $27 billion in funds designated for infrastructure as part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

But the ASCE isn’t giving up hope. In its 2009 report card, the organization sets forth what it calls “Five Key Solutions” to improving America’s infrastructure:

  • Increase federal leadership in Infrastructure
  • Promote sustainability and resilience
  • Develop federal, regional and state infrastructure plans
  • Address life cycle costs and ongoing maintenance
  • Increase and improve infrastructure investment from all stakeholders

The American Society of Civil Engineers is a professional organization comprised of over 133,000 civil engineers from around the world.

ASCE Report Card: Grades by “Subject Area”
Aviation  D
Bridges  C
Dams  D
Drinking Water  D
Energy  D+
Hazardous Waste  D
Inland Waterways  D-
Levees  D-
Public Parks/Recreation  C-
Roads  D-
Schools  D
Solid Waste  C+
Transit  D
Wastewater  D-