The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes its Infrastructure Report Card every 4 years. The report card, prepared by a team of 28 civil engineers, assesses the overall condition of the U.S. infrastructure across 16 segments, including water, electric, wastewater and roads. Unfortunately, for the second time in a row, the report card gave the overall U.S. infrastructure a D+ grade.
What Will It Take to Improve the 2021 Infrastructure Report Card?
This poor grade should be a surprise to no one. It is common knowledge at this point that certain segments of the U.S. infrastructure, like the aging water infrastructure, are crumbling, which is problematic from both a service level as well as an emergency preparedness perspective. But it is a difficult problem to solve because it would cost tens-of-billions of dollars every year to mitigate. In fact, the report card estimates that it would cost a staggering $2 trillion over the next 8 years to fix all the problems. This is obviously daunting, but there is a business case for spending the money – doing nothing is estimated to degrade the U.S. GDP by nearly $4 trillion over this same period, encompassing $7 trillion in lost business and 2.5 million lost jobs.
Despite the business case, as the 2017 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card notes, the money must come from somewhere, and allocating the necessary funds across the federal, state and local levels is certainly easier said than done. The key will be the enactment of legislation across all levels that mandates an increased investment in infrastructure. This has not happened yet, but as a country we are getting closer. What was, just a couple of decades ago, thought of as a low priority is now top of mind for both governmental leaders as well as the American public. Let’s hope this increased awareness translates into action; if not, both the quality of life, as well as our collective ability to handle emergency situations, will be increasingly at risk.