Despite a modicum of improvement since the last grading period, the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) points to aging roads and bridges, outdated energy grids, and transportation systems that simply need attention, upgrades, and improvements.  Overall, the U.S. has earned a D+ for its infrastructure in 2013.

Infrastructure – often taken for granted until it fails, as the report points out – provides more than just day-to-day conveniences.  It also provides the economic backbone for our nation, as it serves as the basis for trade and commerce.

Better isn’t good enough

As ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto says in the report’s introduction, “Notably, this marks the first time the grades have improved since the American Society of Civil Engineers first graded the condition of America’s infrastructure in 1998. However, a D+ grade is still not acceptable.”

The highest grade in the entire report was a B-, in the Solid Waste category.

The 2013 Report Card evaluated 16 categories, listed in the table below.  No category came even close to earning an A, which would have reflected an infrastructure in excellent condition, meeting modern standards for functionality and resilient to withstand most disasters and severe weather events.

In fact, the highest grade in the entire report was a B-, in the Solid Waste category.

Categories are evaluated on the basis of “capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, and resilience.” Between 2009 and 2013, grades marginally improved in the Bridges, Rail, Roads, Solid Waste, and Wastewater categories.

Infrastructure is often taken for granted until it fails– American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE)

Yet with the majority of grades in the C (“Mediocre: Requires Attention”) to D (“Poor: At Risk”) range, there is still plenty of cause for concern. In fact, the ASCE estimates that it will take $3.6 trillion in funding by the year 2020 to address the problem.

ASCE Report Card: Grades by Subject Area 2013 versus 2009

Category 2013 Grade 2009 Grade
Aviation D D
Bridges C+ C
Dams D D
Drinking Water D D
Energy D+ D+
Hazardous Waste D D
Inland Waterways D- D-
Levees D- D-
Ports C n/a (new for 2013)
Public Parks & Recreation C- C-
Rail C+ C-
Roads D D-
Schools D D
Solid Waste B- C+
Transit D D
Wastewater D D-

Our grade on the Report Card:  A+

The 2013 Report Card is, by far, the most comprehensive to date. It includes detailed information, graphs and tables for each infrastructure category – and for each state. If the infrastructure it is grading is perhaps becoming a bit outdated, the report card itself is the complete opposite. Each version of the report card becomes more sophisticated, embracing more technological advances. The 2013 Report Card, for example, can be downloaded via Apple itunes or Google Play. It includes photos and videos, and information galore.

We particularly like the section on Success Stories in each category and state, which represent bright spots in an otherwise bleak report card. The Drinking Water category, for example, highlights the Chicago Department of Water Management’s Ten-Year Plan, and the Prairie Waters Project in Aurora, Colorado – to name a couple of diverse programs in very different locations.

Information is plentiful by category and by state – and users can travel a variety of “routes” to access the data they need.  If a visitor clicks on Dam Safety Programs by State, a resulting interactive map will show programs all over the nation. Hover the mouse on any state to see the number of dams, state-regulated dams, full-time dam employees, and ratios.

Dam-related data is only a small fraction of the information accessible from the State Facts page, which begins with a wide-ranging info-graphic (sampling of data: number of structurally deficient bridges, dollar amount needed to maintain/upgrade drinking water systems, percentage of mediocre or poor quality roads), followed by an snapshot of current conditions in each infrastructure category, and Success Stories in the state.

The bad news is that this country is in dire need of infrastructure improvements. The good news, however, is that there is an abundance of data, statistics, and evidence to prove the deficiencies. Clearly, funding, planning, and implementing change are essential to improving our nation’s infrastructure’s grade point average.