North Dakota Grades its Infrastructure: State Earns a “C”

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The first-ever Report Card for North Dakota’s Infrastructure was published by the ASCE North Dakota Section. Eight categories of infrastructure received an overall grade of a “C,” an indication that infrastructure in the state is in mediocre condition overall. The Report Card was released at a press conference at Bismarck. Guest speakers included Senate Majority Leader Richard Wardner (R-37), House Minority Leader Joshua Boschee (D-44), Bismarck Mandan Chamber Board Member and Executive Director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission Scott Davis, and North Dakota Department of Health, Environmental Health Section Chief David Glatt.

The highest grade assigned in the 2019 assessment was to roads, which earned a “B-.” Roadways in North Dakota have adequate capacity and most agencies are investing appropriately in maintenance. The lowest grade in the 2019 scorecard was dams, which earned a “D.” Forty-nine of North Dakota’s dams are high-hazard potential. Of the state’s high-hazard potential dams, 73% have a condition assessment rating and 50% of these are deficient and do not meet accepted safety standards. Although dam conditions are of concern, they are regularly inspected and most high-hazard potential dams have emergency action plans. Bridges also earned a low “D+.” Currently, there is a $400 million backlog of necessary bridge projects, most of them on bridges owned by local agencies.

Other notable findings include:

  • Most of the state’s energy is generated by coal, but in recent years, wind has made up about ¼ of the total energy generation.
  • Following heavy flooding in 2009, 2010 and 2011, North Dakota has made major investments to improve the condition and capacity of the state’s 627 levees.
  • Over $1 billion dollars has been spent, from all funding sources, on flood related projects along the Red River alone since 1997.
  • North Dakota is home to 29 transit agencies serving urban and rural populations, but ridership is declining.

While North Dakota’s overall grade was better than the national “D+,” there are challenges for the state in the near future. Roads earned a “B-,” but existing funding is insufficient to meet future needs. Should revenue remain stagnate, estimates show that state-maintained roads in poor condition will nearly double between 2018 and 2021, from 443 miles to 872 miles. The state’s gas tax is lower than its neighbors in the Midwest and hasn’t been raised since 2005. Since the start of the 2019 North Dakota legislative session, several bills have been introduced that seek to increase available funding for transportation infrastructure, either by increasing gas taxes or utilizing other sources of revenue.

In addition to an assessment of the state’s infrastructure systems, the Report Card for North Dakota’s Infrastructure also offers three key recommendations to improve the state’s infrastructure and the overall grade. The first is to implement sustainable funding sources. In addition to raising the gas tax, sustainable funding may be found through utilization of the North Dakota Legacy Fund, which can be used to provide low interest loans for infrastructure improvements. The second solution is to encourage and fund innovative design solutions and technology to keep the state competitive nationally and globally. Finally, the Report Card suggests working with infrastructure owners to develop asset management plans. It is important for infrastructure owners to have enough information to properly prioritize key projects and determine where to spend limited funding.

A full copy of the Report Card for North Dakota’s Infrastructure is available at InfrastructureReportCard.org/North-Dakota.

 

 

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