New Report Gives America’s Infrastructure a D+, But Finds Improvement

The New York Times reports:

America’s roads, bridges, water systems and energy networks have long been in poor repair. The American Society of Civil Engineers, which releases a report every four years that evaluates the problem in a letter-grade format, awarded the nation a “D” in its last report, published in 2009.

The latest Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, released Tuesday, has an unexpected bit of qualified good news: the grade has inched up to a D+. It is the first time in the 15 years that the engineering organization has conducted its study that the grade has improved.

The report is showing progress in six areas, including bridges, rail, wastewater and drinking water. No category saw a lower grade than that given in the previous report, though the nation’s inland ports, waterways and levees received a near-flunking grade of D-. (The full report can be downloaded, along with interactive analysis of all 50 states, at

…An expert in infrastructure who is more skeptical of government investment, Robert W. Poole Jr. of the Reason Foundation, said the results of the new report card tracked what he has been arguing for some time in the face of doom-and-gloom pronouncements: “There actually is progress.”

Reason’s Baruch Feigenbaum discussed the new report at Huff Post Live:

A recent Reason Foundation study showed that the nation’s highways and bridges are making progress:

…a new Reason Foundation report examining 20 years of state highway data finds the condition of America’s state-controlled roads has improved in seven key areas including deficient bridges and pavement condition.

All 50 states lowered their highway fatality rates from 1989 to 2008 and 40 states reduced their percentages of deficient bridges during that time. Nationwide, the number of deficient bridges in the country fell from 37.8 percent of all bridges in 1989 to 23.7 percent in 2008.

The Reason Foundation study tracks spending per mile on state-owned roads and measures road performance in seven categories: miles of urban Interstate highways in poor pavement condition, miles of rural Interstates in poor condition, congestion on urban Interstates, deficient bridges, highway fatalities, rural primary roads in poor condition and the number of rural primary roads flagged as too narrow.

In the 20 years examined, 11 states (North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, Kansas, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida) made progress in all seven categories and 37 states improved in at least five of the seven metrics.

California was the only state that failed to improve in at least three areas, making strides only in deficient bridges and fatalities. Five states-New York, Hawaii, Utah, Vermont and Mississippi-progressed in just three categories.

Reason’s transportation research and commentary is here.

shaky bridge

Photo by Shakeelgilgity