SOURCE: American Society of Civil Engineers

American Society of Civil Engineers

March 09, 2017 09:30 ET

America's Infrastructure Grades Remain Near Failing; D+ Grade Shows Greater Need for Investment, Infrastructure Built for the Future

American Society of Civil Engineers calls for increased investment, bold leadership, and strategic planning to improve infrastructure grades nationally

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - March 09, 2017) - The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) today released its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the quadrennial assessment of the nation's infrastructure. The 2017 Report Card found the national grade for infrastructure remains at a "D+" -- the same grade the United States received in 2013 -- suggesting only incremental progress was made over the last four years toward restoring America's infrastructure.

ASCE evaluated 16 categories of infrastructure in the 2017 Report Card, with grades ranging from a "B" for Rail to a "D-" for Transit. While the overall grade did not improve, seven categories did see progress. These improvements can be attributed to strong leadership, thoughtful policymaking, and investments that garnered measurable results.

"While our nation's infrastructure problems are significant, they are solvable," said ASCE President Dr. Norma Jean Mattei, P.E. "We need our elected leaders -- those who pledged to rebuild our infrastructure while on the campaign trail -- to follow through on those promises with investment and innovative solutions that will ensure our infrastructure is built for the future."

ASCE recommends the following solutions to raise the grades:

  • Sustained infrastructure investment, increasing investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025;
  • Bold leadership from officials at all levels of government and the private sector to ensure that investment is spent wisely, including planning for the costs of building, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure for its entire lifespan; and
  • Preparation for the needs of the future, to ensure infrastructure is more resilient and sustainable, with clear economic, social, and environmental benefits.

The 2017 Report Card also highlights the projected total investment required to bring current infrastructure to a grade of a "B" -- what ASCE considers to be an adequate grade. ASCE estimates that by 2025 a total investment of $4.59 trillion is required to improve the nation's infrastructure. After projecting current funding levels, the estimated funding shortfall totals slightly more than $2 trillion. If the United States continues on this trajectory and fails to invest, the nation will face serious economic consequences, including $3.9 trillion in losses to U.S. GDP and more than 2.5 million American jobs lost in 2025.

"Our infrastructure bill is overdue and our inaction is costing Americans $3,400 per year in lost disposal income," said Greg DiLoreto, P.E., a past ASCE president and the current chair of the ASCE Committee on America's Infrastructure, which prepared the Report Card. "While Congress and states have made some effort to improve infrastructure, it's not enough. To see real progress, we need to make long-term infrastructure investment a priority. Investing now will create economic opportunity, enhance quality of life, and ensure public health and safety."

The 2017 Infrastructure Report Card was released publicly during a news conference in Washington, D.C. Speakers included Dr. Mattei; Mr. DiLoreto; Tom Smith, ASCE's Executive Director; Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-CT); former governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, co-chair of Building America's Future; George Hawkins, CEO and general manager of DC Water; and Drew Greenblat, CEO of Marlin Steel. The event webcast is available at


Using a simple A to F school report card format, ASCE's Infrastructure Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigning grades and making recommendations to raise them. The ASCE Committee on America's Infrastructure, made up of dedicated civil engineers from across the country with decades of expertise in all categories, prepares the Report Card, assessing all relevant data and reports, consulting with technical and industry experts, and assigning grades using the following criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.

In addition to the national Report Card, ASCE's sections and branches prepare state and regional Infrastructure Report Cards on a rolling basis.

Additional information regarding the Report Card, category grades, and state Report Cards and information, as well as infographics, videos, and other resources, can be found on or via the Report Card app in the Google Play and App Stores.


Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. Through its strategic initiatives, ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation's infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and seeks to "Raise the Bar" on engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.

Report Card Grades by Infrastructure Sector

 D  D  U.S. airports serve more than two million passengers every day. The aviation industry is marked by technologically advanced and economically efficient aircraft, however, the associated infrastructure of airports and air traffic control systems is not keeping up. Congestion at airports is growing; it is expected that 24 of the top 30 major airports may soon experience "Thanksgiving-peak traffic volume" at least one day every week. With a federally mandated cap on how much airports can charge passengers for facility expansion and renovation, airports struggle to keep up with investment needs, creating a $42 billion funding gap between 2016 and 2025.
 C+  C+  The U.S. has 614,387 bridges, almost four in 10 of which are 50 years or older. 56,007 -- 9.1% -- of the nation's bridges were structurally deficient in 2016, and on average there were 188 million trips across a structurally deficient bridge each day. While the number of bridges that are in such poor condition as to be considered structurally deficient is decreasing, the average age of America's bridges keeps going up and many of the nation's bridges are approaching the end of their design life. The most recent estimate puts the nation's backlog of bridge rehabilitation needs at $123 billion.
 D  D  Dams provide vital service and protection to our communities and economy. The average age of the 90,580 dams in the country is 56 years. As our population grows and development continues, the overall number of high-hazard potential dams is increasing, with the number climbing to nearly 15,500 in 2016. Due to the lack of investment, the number of deficient high-hazard potential dams has also climbed to an estimated 2,170 or more. It is estimated that it will require an investment of nearly $45 billion to repair aging, yet critical, high-hazard potential dams.
 D  D  Drinking water is delivered via one million miles of pipes across the country. Many of those pipes were laid in the early to mid-20th century with a lifespan of 75 to 100 years. The quality of drinking water in the United States remains high, but legacy and emerging contaminants continue to require close attention. While water consumption is down, there are still an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States, wasting over two trillion gallons of treated drinking water. According to the American Water Works Association, an estimated $1 trillion is necessary to maintain and expand service to meet demands over the next 25 years.
 D+  D+  Much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 20th century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy, and the more than 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines in the lower 48 states' power grids are at full capacity. Energy infrastructure is undergoing increased investment to ensure long-term capacity and sustainability; in 2015, 40% of additional power generation came from natural gas and renewable systems. Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions.
 D+  D  Over 18,000 sites and an associated 22 million acres of land are related to the primary hazardous waste programs that comprise much of the nation's hazardous waste infrastructure, and more than half of the U.S. population lives within three miles of a hazardous waste site. The current capacity of the nation's hazardous waste infrastructure is generally adequate, owing in no small measure to significant improvements in managing materials through recycling and reuse, rather than disposal. There have also been significant improvements in remediation technologies, resulting in faster and less resource-intensive cleanup approaches.
 D  D-  The United States' 25,000 miles of inland waterways and 239 locks form the freight network's "water highway." This intricate system, operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, supports more than half a million jobs and delivers more than 600 million tons of cargo each year, about 14% of all domestic freight. Most locks and dams on the system are well beyond their 50-year design life, and nearly half of vessels experience delays. Investment in the waterways system has increased in recent years, but upgrades on the system still take decades to complete.
 D  D-  A nationwide network of 30,000 documented miles of levees protects communities, critical infrastructure, and valuable property, with levees in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Levee Safety Program protecting over 300 colleges and universities, 30 professional sports venues, 100 breweries, and an estimated $1.3 trillion in property. As development continues to encroach in floodplains along rivers and coastal areas, an estimated $80 billion is needed in the next 10 years to maintain and improve the nation's system of levees. In 2014 Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which expanded the levee safety program nationwide, but the program has not yet received any funding.
 D+  C-  A vast network of infrastructure goes into supporting more than seven billion outdoor recreational outings. Americans enjoy park and recreation facilities maintained by entities at all levels of government. At the federal level, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the main providers of park facilities. States and localities provide the bulk of park and recreational facilities that seven in 10 Americans use on a regular basis. National forests and grasslands capture and filter drinking water for 180 million people. America's parks and public lands also support industries such as lodging, restaurants and bars, grocery and convenience stores, and gas stations.
 C+  C  The United States' 926 ports are essential to the nation's competitiveness, serving as the gateway through which 99% of overseas trade passes. Ports are responsible for $4.6 trillion in economic activity -- roughly 26% of the U.S. economy. As ships get bigger, congestion at landside connections to other components of the freight network increasingly hinders ports' productivity. Similarly, on the water side, larger ships require deeper navigation channels, which only a few U.S. ports currently have. To remain competitive globally and with one another, ports have been investing in expansion, modernization, and repair.
 B  C+  For more than 150 years the rail network has been a critical component of the U.S. transportation system and economy. Today it carries approximately one-third of U.S. exports and delivers five million tons of freight and approximately 85,000 passengers each day. The private freight rail industry owns the vast majority of the nation's rail infrastructure, and continues to make significant capital investment -- $27.1 billion in 2015 -- to ensure the network's good condition. U.S. rail still faces clear challenges, most notably in passenger rail, which faces the dual problems of aging infrastructure and insufficient funding.
 D  D  America's roads are often crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded, and are becoming more dangerous. More than two out of every five miles of America's urban interstates are congested and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2014. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. After years of decline, traffic fatalities increased by 7% from 2014 to 2015, with 35,092 people dying on America's roads.

 D+  D  Every school day, nearly 50 million K-12 students and six million adults occupy close to 100,000 public school buildings on an estimated two million acres of land. The nation continues to underinvest in school facilities, leaving an estimated $38 billion annual gap. As a result, 24% of public school buildings were rated as being in fair or poor condition. While there have been a number of insightful reports in recent years, state and local governments are plagued by a lack of comprehensive data on public school infrastructure as they seek to fund, plan, construct, and maintain quality school facilities.
 C+  B-  Overall management of municipal solid waste (MSW) across America is currently in fair condition. In many cases, the transport and disposal of MSW is self-funded and managed by the private sector, and therefore is sufficiently funded. Americans generate about 258 million tons of MSW annually, of which approximately 53% is deposited in landfills -- a share that has plateaued in recent years. Currently, 34.6% of MSW is recycled and 12.8% is combusted for energy production. There is a need to change the way we think of how solid waste is generated, managed, and potentially used as a resource. Americans need to recognize that what is routinely discarded may in fact be a reusable resource.
 D-  D  Transit in America continues to grow, carrying 10.5 billion trips in 2015, and adding new lines and systems every year. Yet the symptoms of overdue maintenance and underinvestment have never been clearer. Despite increasing demand, the nation's transit systems have been chronically underfunded, resulting in aging infrastructure and a $90 billion rehabilitation backlog. While some communities are experiencing a transit boom, many Americans still have inadequate access to public transit.
 D+  D  The nation's 14,748 wastewater treatment plants protect public health and the environment. Years of treatment plant upgrades and more stringent federal and state regulations have significantly reduced untreated releases and improved water quality nationwide. It is expected that more than 56 million new users will be connected to centralized treatment systems over the next two decades, and an estimated $271 billion is needed to meet current and future demands. Through new methods and technologies that turn waste into energy, the nation's 1,269 biogas plants help communities better manage waste through reuse.
OVERALL  D+  D+   

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