Solutions to Raise the Grade

If the United States is serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the 21st century, some specific steps must be taken, beginning with increased, long-term, consistent investment. To continue to delay such investment only escalates the costs and risks of an aging infrastructure system – an option the country, the economy, and families can no longer afford.

ASCE urges bold leadership and action, sustained investment, and a focus on resilience to raise the national infrastructure grade over the next four years, so that every American family, community, and business can thrive.

Our nation’s infrastructure problems are solvable if we have leadership and commit to making good ideas a reality. Raising the grades on our infrastructure will require that we seek and adopt a wide range of solutions.


If the United States is serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the future some specific steps must be taken, beginning with increased, long-term, consistent investment. To close the $2.59 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future needs, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase infrastructure 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.

This investment must be consistently and wisely allocated, and must begin with the following steps:

Congress should fully fund authorized programs.

Infrastructure owners and operators must charge, and Americans must be willing to pay, rates reflecting the true cost of using, maintaining, and improving infrastructure.

All parties should make use of public private partnerships, where appropriate.

All parties should strive to close the rural/urban and underserved community resource divide by ensuring adequate investment in these areas through programmatic set asides.

The surface transportation investment gap is the largest deficit in the categories of infrastructure ASCE examines. Continuing to defer maintenance and modernization is impacting our ability to compete in a global marketplace and maintain a high quality of living domestically. Congress must fix the Highway Trust Fund.

Leadership & Action

Smart investment will only be possible with strong leadership, decisive action, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.

Leaders from all levels of government, business, labor, and nonprofit organizations must come together to:

Incentivize asset management and encourage the creation and utilization of infrastructure data sets across classes.

Streamline the project permitting process across infrastructure sectors, while ensuring appropriate safeguards and protections are in place.

Ensure all investments are spent wisely, prioritizing projects with critical benefits to the economy, public safety, environment, and quality of life (e.g. sustainability).

Leverage proven and emerging tech to make use of limited available resources.

Consider life cycle costs when making project decisions. Life cycle cost analysis determines the cost of building, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure for its entire life span.

Support research and development of innovative materials, technologies, and processes to modernize and extend the life of infrastructure, expediate repairs or replacements, and promote cost savings. Innovation should include a component of integration and utilization of big data, as well as the “internet of things.”

Promote sustainability, or the “triple bottom line” in infrastructure decisions, by considering the long-term economic, social, and environmental benefits of a project.

ASCE recognizes civil engineers’ unique leadership role in addressing our infrastructure challenges. ASCE issued its “Grand Challenge,” a call to action for the entire civil engineering profession to increase the value and capacity of infrastructure and increase and optimize infrastructure investments by transforming the way we plan, deliver, operate, and maintain our nation’s infrastructure. Central to the Grand Challenge is a commitment to rethinking what’s possible through life cycle cost assessments, innovation, performance-based standards, and enhanced resiliency, with the goal of reducing the life cycle cost of infrastructure by 50 percent by 2025.


The Goal: reduce the life cycle cost of infrastructure by 50 percent by 2025.


We must utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure can withstand or quickly recover from natural or man-made hazards.

Advancements in resilience across all infrastructure sectors can be made by:

  1. Enabling communities, regardless of size, to develop and institute their own resilience pathway for all their infrastructure portfolios by streamlining asset management, implementing life cycle cost analysis into routine planning processes, and integrating climate change projections into long-term goal-setting and capital improvement plans.
  2. Incentivizing and enforcing the use of codes and standards, which can mitigate risks of major climate or manmade events such as hurricanes, fires, sea level rise, and more.
  3. Understanding that our infrastructure is a system of systems and encourage a dynamic, “big picture” perspective that weighs tradeoffs across infrastructure sectors while keeping resilience as the chief goal.
  4. Prioritizing projects that improve the safety and security of systems and communities, to ensure continued reliability and enhanced resilience.
  5. Improving land use planning across all levels of decision making to strike a balance between the built and natural environments while meeting community needs, now and into the future.
  6. Enhancing the resilience of various infrastructure sectors by including or enhancing natural or “green” infrastructure.

Interact with Our Resilience Toolkit

Solutions Summit

The American Society of Civil Engineers released their 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure on March 3, 2021. The quadrennial assessment graded the condition and performance of 17 categories of infrastructure – including drinking water, roads, levees, dams, and much more. After the grades were unveiled, ASCE convened a program of elected officials, decision makers, and thought leaders to discussion solutions to raising our infrastructure GPA.