Startup Uses Drone for Cleaning Water, Collecting Data
The people of Connecticut are concerned about the State’s economy. Residents and elected leaders seek a business-friendly environment and improvements to their quality of life. Infrastructure is vital for our society’s economic health – a cornerstone that is especially important to a densely populated state such as Connecticut. Infrastructure includes surface transportation networks such as bridges, streets for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and railroads carrying freight and passengers. Infrastructure also includes water systems: sourcing, treating, and sending clean water to the tap, plus wastewater collection and treatment facilities. Infrastructure is the backbone of our modern communities. Investments in our physical capital lead to increased opportunities for economic prosperity and help improve the quality of life for residents.
The Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers, in conjunction with the American Society of Civil Engineers, has evaluated five infrastructure networks important to the State of Connecticut – roads, bridges, rail transportation, drinking water systems, and wastewater systems. Grades ranged from a D+ for roads to a B for rail, with an overall grade of C. Three out of five categories – bridges, drinking water, and wastewater showed incremental improvement in their grades over the last four years since the first Connecticut Infrastructure Report Card was issued in 2018 – and no categories had their grades go down. The age of our infrastructure is a challenge across the categories. Connecticut has some of the oldest infrastructure in the country, much of it over 50 years old and beyond its intended life. While some conditional improvements have been made in recent years, there remains a significant long-term funding gap between predicted funding and needed capital improvements. This gap puts any progress at risk.
The recent passage of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is expected to provide Connecticut with over $5 billion in infrastructure funding over the next five years, which will help address some of the age, capacity, and condition challenges. Inflation levels at 40-year highs and Connecticut’s gas tax suspension through November 30, 2022 present additional headwinds. Capital improvement projects out for bid today are coming in significantly higher and gas tax receipts have been reduced. Connecticut’s civil engineers are working hard to do more with recent public investment. But it remains vital that Connecticut’s leaders back a bold vision for our infrastructure to foster opportunities that improve our economy and increase prosperity for residents.
The 2022 Connecticut Infrastructure Report Card looks at the five categories of infrastructure in the State, highlighting concerns and challenges while offering several proposed solutions. Click here to read the 2022 Connecticut Infrastructure Report Card Executive Summary.
Consistent funding, a preventative maintenance focus, and further adoption of innovative materials and techniques have all contributed to a marked improvement in Connecticut’s bridge infrastructure condition since the previous 2018 Report Card. The percentage of National Highway System bridges in Connecticut that are in poor condition is now in compliance with the Federal Highway Administration’s 10% threshold since its reduction from 13% to 7.5% (measured by deck area). Connecticut’s improvement on this statistic has outpaced its New England peers. However, across the board improvements have generally been limited to state maintained bridges; conditions of locally maintained bridges (which account for about 25% of the bridges in the state) are lagging. The overall outlook is positive, and additional federal funding from recent legislation will be leveraged to keep up the momentum. Still, the foreseeable future includes challenges that may slow or reverse system-wide improvement. There appears to be a substantial funding gap that is delaying enhancements and reconstructions for several major bridges. These delayed projects are critical to the state’s economic vitality, and, so far, no permanent solution has been identified that will address the funding gap and allow the state to meet its long-term commitments.
Connecticut residents benefit from high quality sources of drinking water supply. Over 97% of the population is served drinking water that meets all applicable health standards, well above the national target of 92%. However, systems are aging and in need of repair, rehabilitation, and maintenance, estimated to cost more than $4 billion over the next 20 years. Leaking watermains contribute to losses estimated between 15 to 20% of total water production. To proactively ensure smart planning decisions about the future of Connecticut’s drinking water, the state formally adopted a State Water Plan in 2019. Asset management planning will be required to ensure the limited available funding is used expeditiously.
Connecticut’s passenger rail system is both intrastate and interstate, although interstate passenger rail dominates. The Connecticut rail system is connected to the New York-centric Metro-North Railroad (MNR), with ridership of over 40 million passengers per year. This means Connecticut is part of the most active passenger rail system in the nation. Secondary to passenger rail use, freight short haul rail operates on the Connecticut rail system. In the past five years, CTDOT and Amtrak have upgraded facilities, improved safety, and invested in major infrastructure replacement/rehabilitation projects. However, greater state and federal investment is needed to increase the frequency, reliability, and coverage area to ultimately sustain the rail system with high ridership attracted away from driving and flying.
There are 21,430 miles of roadways in the state of Connecticut; 19% of which are owned and maintained by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) and the remaining 81% by municipalities, of which 77% of local miles are in poor riding condition. Connecticut struggles with roadway congestion, containing six of the top 15 national freight bottlenecks. The state has not raised its gas tax since 2001, a funding stream that has lost 50% of its value to inflation and vehicle efficiency. Connecticut faces further revenue declines resulting from its suspension from April 1 through November 30, 2022 to combat increasing fuel prices. CTDOT has adopted transportation asset management and completed a state-wide climate resilience assessment, but the state’s roads carry more vehicles than before COVID-19. Traffic safety has only recently become a priority statewide with traffic deaths persisting and rural roads lacking sidewalks or bike lanes, posing an outsized danger.
Connecticut wastewater is treated by sanitary sewer systems and onsite septic systems. Septic systems service approximately 45% of residents. There are 94 permitted, domestic wastewater treatment plants. Connecticut residents paid an average of $520 annually for sewer services in 2019, with increases outpacing national averages, but lagging the need of the Constitution State’s very old infrastructure. To meet those needs, increased funding levels from the federal and state government must continue past the end of recent federal legislation. Like the infrastructure they maintain, Connecticut’s wastewater engineers are aging, and successful services depend on more significant workforce development efforts from all stakeholders.
A: EXCEPTIONAL, B: GOOD, C: MEDIOCRE, D: POOR, F: FAILING
Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation
4 major airports
4,336 bridges, 6.3% of which were structurally deficient in 2019
284 high hazard dams
$4 billion total drinking water need over 20 years
593 outages between 2008 and 2017
18 Superfund sites
120 miles of inland waterways
21 miles of levees protect $3.4 billion of property.
$2,264,052 in deferred park maintenance
2 major water ports
522 miles of rail across the state
34% of roads are in poor condition. Each motorist pays $711 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair
$689 million gap in estimated school capital expenditures.
10,442,603 tons of municipal solid waste
$7.50 average monthly fee
41.6 million passenger trips in 2018
$4.6 billion in wastewater needs
Smart investment will only be possible with strong leadership, decisive action, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.
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.
We must utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure can withstand or quickly recover from natural or man-made hazards.
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