Since 1988, the American Society Of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has periodically released a rating of public infrastructure. This report is known as the American Society Of Civil Engineers Report Card.
It provides a letter grade based on the current quality and integrity of essential infrastructure throughout the United States.
The grade is based on 17 individual categories, which are aviation, bridges, broadband, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, ports, railroads, roads, schools, solid waste, storm water, transit, and wastewater.
Each of these categories is evaluated based on whether these systems have the capacity to meet current and future requirements, their physical condition, whether operation and maintenance are adequate, resilience to hazards and threats, safety to the public, and other criteria.
As each category is rated, the overall grades are tallied to provide the cumulative grade of the ASCE Report Card.
In addition to the national level, this same system is applied to individual states and some U.S. territories to create an infrastructure report card by state.
ASCE report cards will focus on areas of improvement and evaluate whether circumstances are steady, improving, or declining. Specific suggestions for improvement, as well as the estimated costs to make those improvements, are also provided by the ASCE based on their findings.
Why Does The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card Matter?
The ASCE report card provides a simplified overview of whether infrastructure needs are being met or falling short, and this can help drive investment where it stands to deliver the greatest impact.
Since the ASCE’s public infrastructure categories represent a diverse range of systems, its report card is a useful snapshot of how vital resources are faring in the specific states, regions, and the nation overall.
Infrastructure integrity related to U.S. drinking water, hazardous waste, stormwater, solid waste, and wastewater will directly impact public health, safety, and the environment.
Ratings on railways, transit, ports, bridges, and aviation will impact on mobility and transportation, but also on business and the cost of moving goods from one area to another.
Evaluation of schools, broadband, and public parks can deliver vital information on whether communities are thriving and fostering prosperity and quality of life for citizens.
If the grades on these and other categories have improved is also a significant metric, as this shows where past investments have been used effectively.
After its 2021 report card, America’s infrastructure earned a grade of a C minus, which per ASCE standards amounts to slightly less than mediocre and in need of attention to avoid serious risk.
On its own, this is not great news for the U.S., but it is an improvement from 2017’s national grade of a D plus.
Some of the most pressing issues facing U.S infrastructure are the 43 percent of public roads in poor or mediocre condition, the 6 billion gallons of water lost every day due to near-constant water main breaks, prevailing maintenance backlogs, and a major lack of data on school facilities, levees, and stormwater systems.
How Can The U.S. Improve Its Infrastructure Report Card Grade?
To continue the progress made over the last few years, the infrastructure engineering professionals that make up the ASCE Committee on America’s infrastructure, have recommended increased investment in infrastructure data collection and utilization.
Other suggestions have included streamlined project permitting with appropriate safeguards and protections; research and development of new materials, technologies, and processes related to new projects as well as repairs and replacements; and prioritization of economic, social, and environmental concerns and benefits.
All of this requires adequate funding, thus the ASCE has urged more action from Congress, including updates to the Highway Trust Fund and closing the surface transportation investment gap and other maintenance and repair deficits.