Asset management has been around for decades, but how much are we using this practice when making smart investment decisions for our nation’s roads, bridges, water systems, and more – while minimizing the total cost of owning and operating those assets? A newly released report by ASCE this week examines the current practice of asset management as a way to prioritize maintenance and make smart investment decisions for our systems. Advances in asset management help policymakers and infrastructure owners to better prioritize and make best use of limited available dollars.
Public spending on roads, bridges, water systems and more fell by 8% from 2003 to 2017, and ASCE estimates that between 2016 and 2025, we will underinvest in our infrastructure by over $2 trillion. This report found that all levels of government and the private sector can aid in closing the infrastructure gap and have been turning to asset management to set priorities.
Asset management involves creating a comprehensive infrastructure inventory, which makes prioritizing essential repairs and replacement projects, in addition to planning a long-term capital budget, efficient for policymakers and asset owners. Once the inventory is in place, the data is continuously updated as the condition of assets change.
This report found that elected officials and leadership have enthusiastically embraced asset management as a tool to make smart investment decisions. New polling of public agency leaders conducted in conjunction with the report found that only 19% of local and state management officials felt there was little to no political support for asset management. This poll found that many respondents are confident their organization uses an asset management strategy to keep up with their public assets. Additionally, 34% of respondents identified the need for political support as key to improving asset management capabilities.
Furthermore, 24% of respondents answered that their organization primarily manages data digitally, while just 12% manage assets manually—and a significant portion combine digital and manual methods while transitioning to digital asset management.
While many asset management plans are voluntary and not required by the federal government, cities that choose to incorporate them have provided many benefits to the community in terms of funding. This report examined places that incorporated best-practice asset management strategies across the infrastructure sectors in four areas: Canada, Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Michigan.
Each case study revealed valuable ‘lessons learned’ for asset owners and policymakers. Overall, themes circled around one common notion: engaging in asset management practices across infrastructure sectors can be a game-changing tool for infrastructure asset owners, and allows infrastructure owners to take a proactive approach in assessing the condition of their assets and analyzing the data needed to make appropriate long-term funding decisions.
In response to the poll results, the report offers several policy recommendations to encourage greater adoption of best-practice asset management strategies:
- States, counties and cities should create an infrastructure commission to oversee the consolidation of their infrastructure data across asset classes, acting as a one-stop shop for a centralized database.
- Create additional grant and low interest loan programs to assist localities and states with setting up an asset management inventory.
- Require continuous oversight and accountability for completed asset management plans to ensure strategic use.
- Expand the requirement for asset management plans as a condition to receive federal funding. This requirement exists for transportation networks but should also be applied to water systems.
The full report may be found at asce.org/assetmanagement.