The Tennessee Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2022 Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure on November 16, 2022, beside a TN DOT project upgrading the Broadway Street bridge. The span crosses a rail viaduct carrying increasing numbers of passengers choosing train travel.
The new report card contains 13 categories of infrastructure receiving an overall grade of a ‘C’, the same grade given by the section in its 2016 report. That means Tennessee’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition and requires attention, but is a step ahead of the national average of “C-” given in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Tennessee’s freight rail network is strong and plays a major role in the national economy as a key mobility hub. Its energy grid has been reliable, allowing families and businesses to operate efficiently. Many of the state’s systems are performing at or above national averages; however, a surge in population growth, increasingly severe weather impacts, and insufficient data on the current condition of several infrastructure sectors threaten the long-term viability of the state’s overall network. Civil engineers graded aviation (C+), bridges (B), dams (D+), drinking water (C+), energy (C+), inland waterways (C), parks (C+), rail (C), roads (C), solid waste (C+), stormwater (C+), transit (D+), and wastewater (C-).
“This report shows that Tennessee’s infrastructure is a driving force behind the economic strength in our state and our state’s significant role in the national supply chain,” said Monica Sartain, chair for the 2022 Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure. “We cannot begin taking these systems for granted if we want to sustain our current successes with population growth adding strain to the existing system.”
The report includes calls to action to raise the grades, which include:
- Increase the availability and acquisition of data used for design, planning, and other decision-making processes. TN collects a lot of data on transportation-related areas of infrastructure. However, data on other infrastructure networks is limited. Although improvement in this area has been seen specifically in the areas of water & wastewater, there is still limited to no data on locally or privately owned infrastructure components including stormwater, dams, and parks.
- Fully fund infrastructure projects as needed to eliminate backlog and/or deferred maintenance so agencies are better able to address aging systems in the future. Although strides have been made across the state to eliminate work backlog and reduce local matches for some projects, there are still areas with large amounts of deferred maintenance.
- Include considerations for population growth and extreme weather events when planning and funding future projects. TN has seen heavy increases in both population and the incident of extreme weather events in the past few years. For our infrastructure to keep up with these changes, special attention must be paid to these trends when planning and funding for future projects.