Making the Grade

The rebirth may be slow in coming, but America’s infrastructure is showing signs of improvement.

Interested in Infrastructure?

Get Infrastructure articles, news and videos right in your inbox! Sign up now.

Infrastructure + Get Alerts

You’ve seen countless stories about how America’s infrastructure is failing. Roads and bridges are crumbling, sewer systems are fouling waterways, and waterlines are leaking at alarming rates.

This time around, the news isn’t quite so grim. The ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure has been released and the results are slightly improved. Updated once every four years, this year’s report card found that America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly from a D in 2009 to a D+ this year. 

It is estimated that the government will invest approximately $3.6 trillion across the nation’s 16 infrastructure sectors by 2020. Investments have been made since the 2009 assessment in six sectors, including solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, bridges and rail.

Key trends that drove those improvements included:

  • Renewed efforts in cities and states to address deficient roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems
  • Private investment for efficiency and connectivity brought improvements in the nation’s railways, ports and energy grid
  • Several categories benefited from short-term boosts in federal funding

“A D+ is simply unacceptable for anyone serious about strengthening our nation’s economy; however, the 2013 Report Card shows that this problem can be solved,” says ASCE President Gregory E. DiLoreto, P.E. “If we want to create jobs, increase trade, and assure the safety of our children, then infrastructure investment is the answer.”

The report card includes grades for specific infrastructure sectors. Drinking water and wastewater systems both improved slightly to a grade of D. Low grades in these sectors continue due to pipes and mains that are reaching the end of their life cycle and require significant investment, and large capital investment needs for the wastewater and stormwater systems to fix and expand pipes to address sanitary sewer overflows, combined sewer overflows, and other pipe-related issues. 

This month’s issue of MSW features some municipalities that have all made significant strides toward improving their infrastructure. Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority in Jersey City, N.J., has taken on a massive CSO reduction project. The utility’s sanitary and stormwater collection systems are almost completely combined, and CSOs have historically been a significant problem.

Under terms of a consent decree with the U.S. EPA, JCMUA is spending more than $52 million to inspect, clean and upgrade its sewer system to prevent future releases of untreated wastewater into area water bodies.

Mesa Water, in Costa Mesa, Calif., has made impressive strides with its water distribution system. The district’s proactive infrastructure maintenance and replacement program has brought its water loss rate down to almost nothing. When problems arise, pipes are replaced; they don’t take a Band-Aid approach. They are also very proactive about the maintenance and replacement of valves and meters, which prevents problems that could otherwise sap the system’s performance. The utility is currently ranked as “Excellent” by American Water Works Association audit standards, and it is very close to “World Class,” the top ranking.

So even though a D+ isn’t a grade to be proud of, it is an indicator of improvement in our overall infrastructure, and these two utilities are good examples of where that improvement is coming from.

The 2013 Report Card includes information for all 50 states and highlights initiatives and innovations that are making a difference.

Visit to view and download the complete 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. 

Enjoy this month’s issue.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.