The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure reveals we’ve made some incremental progress toward restoring our nation’s infrastructure. For the first time in 20 years, our infrastructure is out of the D range. Below we take a look at the US infrastructure grade for the sector categories we analyzed.
For transit, The infrastructure grades range from a B in rail to a D-. Five category grades — aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, and ports — went up, while just one category — bridges — went down. In 2021, stormwater infrastructure received its first grade: a disappointing D. Overall, 11 category grades were stuck in the D range, a clear signal that our overdue infrastructure bill is a long way from being paid off.
While we grade 17 categories individually, our infrastructure is a system of systems and more connected than ever before. As we look at the low grades and analyze the data behind them, there are three trends worth noting:
Sectors like transit and wastewater have staggering maintenance deficits, but developing a clear picture of where the available funding is most needed improves overall system performance and public safety. The drinking water sector, for example, has embraced asset management and new technology to pinpoint leaks and target repairs.
Since 2010, 37 states have raised their gas tax to fund critical transportation investments. Ninety-eight percent of local infrastructure ballot initiatives passed in November 2020. At least 25 major cities and states now have chief resilience officers. These improvements were made by elected officials from both sides of the aisle and with strong voter support. Meanwhile, categories like ports, drinking water, and inland waterways have been the beneficiaries of increased federal funding.
After months of deliberation, Congress has officially passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the largest federal investment in our nation’s infrastructure in U.S. history. The bill addresses 16 of the 17 categories outlined in ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card and addresses more than 40 of the solutions laid out in ASCE’s report. Learn more by watching this quick video.
We applaud the elected officials and members of the public who have improved infrastructure policy and supported additional funding. We’re seeing the benefits of this action in drinking water, inland waterways, and airports. The private sector has also invested in the electric grid, freight rail, and more.
However, significant challenges still lie ahead.
Importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on infrastructure revenue streams threatens to derail the modest progress we’ve made over the past four years. In addition, many sectors and infrastructure owners are learning what it will take to make our communities climate-resilient as we grapple with more severe weather. Meanwhile, many of our legacy transportation and water resource systems are still in the D range. These infrastructure networks suffer from chronic underinvestment and are in poor condition.
Big and bold action from Washington, as well as continued prioritization by states and localities, is needed to bring all our infrastructure to a state of good repair. We’re headed in the right direction, but as the US infrastructure grade clearly shows, a lot of work remains.