In its most recent assessment, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave infrastructure in the United States a D+ grade overall. The grade is unchanged from the ASCE’s last assessment in 2013, which indicates that any improvement has been minimal. An average of total U.S. infrastructure, the report also included breakdowns of each of the sixteen individual categories. Seven areas showed improvement and three declined.
The lowest grade, a D-, was for transit, a decline from a D four years ago. Unsurprisingly, the current rebuilding schedule for rail and bus systems is roughly $90 billion behind. The drinking water system was also given a D grade, the same as the 2013. Much of the pipes were laid in the beginning or middle of the last century and are coming to the end of their lifespans. Each year, water main leaks cause over two trillion gallons of fresh water to be wasted.
Dams also received a D grade. The most famous recent case of dam failure was the Oroville Dam in California, the breaking of which displaced 200,000 people. But the 49-year-old dam was just one of many at a high risk for failure. The ASCE report noted that “The average age of the 90,580 dams in the country is 56 years,” and that “the number of deficient high-hazard potential dams has also climbed to an estimated 2,170 or more.”
Funding shortages appear to be the root of the problem. The ASCE estimates that the U.S. needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 to bring its infrastructure to an acceptable B- grade. Current funding plans would fall short of this amount by about $2 trillion. The highest grade in the report was a B for rail, an improvement from the C+ given in 2013. The report attributed asserts that significant spending was a large factor, with $27.1 billion spent on rails in 2015 alone.
The report comes at a time when political momentum for infrastructure investment may be building. In an address to Congress, the President indicated the desire to pass legislation to increase infrastructure spending by $1 trillion. He has also discussed a tax credit to incentivize private sector investment. Though much needed, such infrastructure improvements could very well bring applications of eminent domain. Given the comprehensiveness of the need, it’s possible that use of the power could be equally wide ranging.