Professional engineers volunteering with the American Society of Civil Engineers released the first Report Card for Wyoming’s Infrastructure on January 31, 2023. The report includes five infrastructure categories receiving an overall grade of ‘C’ — meaning Wyoming’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition.
Civil engineers graded Wyoming’s aviation (B-), bridges (C-), drinking water (C), roads (C), and wastewater (D+).
Wyoming Report Card Shows Infrastructure Requires Local Funding
While Wyoming’s infrastructure rates are slightly higher than the national grade of ‘C-‘ assigned in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, low funding levels and harsh environmental conditions pose a significant threat.
The Wyoming report card also details how temporary funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), passed in November 2021, benefits the state. However, continued state investment is needed to ensure the long-term success of the critical infrastructure systems that people in Wyoming depend on daily. More than $2.3 billion in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been awarded for projects in Wyoming.
Wastewater systems received the lowest grade on Wyoming’s report card. Many of the publicly owned wastewater systems have not been upgraded since the 1960s and 1970s, and they will soon need replacement or rehabilitation.
Local funding for wastewater systems is also limited by low user fees and limitations on how much debt cities can incur to fund wastewater treatment projects.
“The first ever Infrastructure Report Card for Wyoming provides a look at the challenges leaders across the state have maintaining crucial infrastructure services in Wyoming’s unique environment. Roads, bridges, airports, and water systems help drive Wyoming’s economy. When these systems are in good shape, everyone benefits.”
— Dustin Woods, P.E., co-chair, 2023 Report Card for Wyoming’s Infrastructure
3 Solutions for Upgrading Wyoming’s Infrastructure
The report card also includes calls to action to raise the grades, which include:
- Increase rates and fees, charge for usage, and monitor equity impacts: Wyoming’s drinking water and wastewater systems currently spend more on essential costs than they collect in revenue from users in all systems. That must change to provide safe water infrastructure.
Increased asset management tracking and capital project planning would highlight even more significant needs. To ensure consistent service, Wyoming needs to increase elected boards’ and councils’ awareness and education of utility management, tying infrastructure projects to board/council training.
Wyoming needs to increase water rates, install and charge for usage rates, and proactively support residents or businesses for whom higher rates create unreasonable burdens. In addition, Wyoming systems must address water usage and look to future technology and equipment to reduce energy costs and water usage.
- Calculate future needs incorporating harsh environments and topography: Corrosive soil conditions degrading water pipes make more frequent replacements necessary. Drought conditions persisting decades and high plains with unforgiving remoteness call for more resilient systems.
- Capitalize on recent federal infrastructure investments:
More than most states, Wyoming already understands the importance of federal investments. Infrastructure owners should capitalize on the historic, short-lived opportunities for extra help from the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.