2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure Get the full experience

Now Available for Your iPad

Save America's Instrastructure Pocket Guide - Get the best experience
2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure Get the full experience

Now Available for Your Android

2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure Get the full experience

Now Available for Your Android Tablet

America's GPA: D+
Estimated Investment Needed by 2020:
$3.6 Trillion

Infrastructure in the News: No Rest for Weary Infrastructure

February 17th, 2017 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Romantic dates, the Grammy awards and celebrating black history are not the only milestones of this week; the Oroville dam crisis in California and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)’s 2017 national bridge report are drawing equal media attention. The recent Oroville dam crisis in California, captured by sources like National Geographic, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and TIME Magazine, thrust a spotlight on our nation’s dams. According to FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program Fact Sheet, Oroville is one of more than 90,000 dams across the country that are underfunded and likewise vulnerable to overflow. According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the average dam is more than 50 years old and more than 4,000 of them have been deemed deficient, or needing repairs. Thus, many other states are starting to pay closer attention to the state of their dams. In addition to dams, ARTBA’s new 2017 bridge report highlights our nation’s bridge needs. The report reveals that there are 185 million daily crossings on nearly 56,000 structurally deficient U.S. bridges, including 13,000 that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction. “America’s highway network is woefully underperforming. It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization,” said Alison Premo Black, chief economist of ARTBA. “State and local transportation departments haven’t been provided the resources to keep pace with the nation’s bridge needs.” With so much recent overt attention to dam and bridge infrastructure, the timing of our upcoming 2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure couldn’t be better. Stay tuned for more information about our nation’s infrastructure need by sector, which will be disclosed when the Report Card is released on March 9.

No Comments »

A Big WIIN For Water Resources

December 15th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, the U.S. Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which included a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) title by a vote of 78-21. The vote was one of the final acts of the 114th Congress. The House passed the same bill a few days earlier by a vote of 360-61.President Obama is expected to sign the bill in the next few days. This bill had been months—and in some ways years—in the making. Since the beginning WIIN Thank Youof this year, ASCE has been actively working on getting a water resources bill passed, and restoring it to a two-year cycle. In February, ASCE provided Congressional testimony before both the Senate and House on the importance of passing a new water resources bill. The final bill includes several of our priorities, including the creation of a High Hazard Dam Rehabilitation program and other important infrastructure programs, including authorization of 30 new projects for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. ASCE members sent nearly 5,000 emails to Capitol Hill urging passage during the final days of debate on the bill. Those final few days before the bill’s passage were fraught with consternation as a provision inserted last minute to assist with drought relief to western states rattled environmentalists and the bill’s primary Democratic author, California Senator Barbara Boxer, who worried that water transfers could affect the health of fishery populations. Those concerns did peel off nearly two dozen democratic votes in the Senate, however, the bill ultimately passed with strong bipartisan support. While Congress has vowed to pass a water resources bill every two years (the last one passed in 2014, but before that 2007) the authorization components of the bill still must be funded through annual appropriations. The 114th Congress concluded by passing a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open and running through April 2017. This sort of stopgap funding measure is not the type of major injections of infrastructure investment necessary to reduce the estimated $1.6 trillion infrastructure funding gap that is expected by 2020.  We are hopeful that the 115th Congress will work diligently to fund infrastructure programs and increase federal appropriations to important programs. In the meantime, thank your Members of Congress who voted for WIIN by sending an email. For more, read Congress Unveils Compromise Water Resources Bill

No Comments »

Congress Unveils Compromise Water Resources Bill

December 6th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

Congressional negotiators released a newly rebranded water infrastructure bill this week after months of hashing out differences between their respective Water Resources Development Acts (S.2848 and H.R.5303) that each chamber passed earlier this year. The new bill, dubbed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act or WIIN Act not only includes a traditional Army Corps project authorization title, but also other water infrastructure programs such as aid to Flint, Mich. to assist in lead pipe replacement and provisions to help California with drought relief.  The American Society of Civil Engineers sent letters of support to House and Senate leadership. The compromise bill also includes a high-hazard dam rehabilitation and repair program, which was included in the original Senate version of WRDA that passed by a vote of 95-3. Here a few selected sections to keep an eye on: Title I: Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (Army Corps of Engineers projects) Sec. 1108 Funding for Harbor Maintenance Programs Changes the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) formula established in WRRDA 2014 to ensure distribution of funds will be 3% higher than the total resources from the year before.  This ensures that distributions continue to increase, year-over-year, until 100% distribution of the funds in the HMTF are used for their intended purpose. Sec. 1111 Harbor Deepening Allows for a 75 percent federal share on harbor deepening projects up to 50 feet. With new Post-Panamax size ships entering U.S. ports, this provision allows a 75 percent federal cost-share for new construction (not just maintenance) up to 50 feet deep. The federal share was previously 50 percent for new construction deeper than 45 feet. Sec. 1122 Beneficial Use of Dredged Material Establishes a new pilot program for the beneficial use of dredge material. The pilot program allows the Army Corps to undertake 10 projects that would use dredge material for reducing storm surge, promote public safety, enhance aquatic habitat and stabilize shorelines. Importantly, the extra cost of using the material will be covered by the Corps, rather than the non-federal sponsor. Sec. 1184 Considerations of Measures Requires the Corps, in consultation with a non-federal project sponsor to consider the use of natural and nature based features for costal water resources projects. Title II: Water and Wastewater Act of 2016 Sec. 2101 Sense of Congress on Appropriation of Levels While it’s not compulsory, this section provides language that supports a theme President-Elect Trump supports: increasing appropriations to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Sec. 2201 Drinking Water Infrastructure Provides funds to assist Flint, Michigan to replace lead service lines. Sec. 2202 Sense of Congress Provides $20,000,000 for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act. Title III: Natural Resources Sec. 3801 Reauthorization of Water Desalination Act of 1996 Reauthorizes $40 million for research, design and construction program to advance desalination. Sec. 5006 Rehabilitation of High Hazard Potential Dams Establishes a high hazard dam repair, rehabilitation or removal grant program under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Authorized at $445 million over ten years. Stay tuned to the @ASCEgovrel Twitter for progress on the bill in the coming days.

No Comments »

Help Get WRDA Finished

December 2nd, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

With plans for Congress to adjourn at the end of next week, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 is still waiting for final passage. The bill is being conferenced by the House and Senate, which has been making good progress on a compromised bill that incorporates parts of each chamber’s version of WRDA. However, in the past 24 hours there have been some political roadblocks that may put a final bill in jeopardy. To help raise the grades for dams, inland waterways, levees, ports, and drinking water we need you to take action now! Call the House and Senate Leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and ask them to move WRDA to the floor for a vote before Congress adjourns for the year. Together we can help WRDA cross the finish line in 2016, getting it back on the two-year cycle that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water resources programs.

No Comments »

Stakeholders Weighing on Final Water Resources Package

November 3rd, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

As the last remaining standalone infrastructure bill with a chance of becoming law this year, stakeholders for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 are beginning to double down on their priorities by weighing in with the leaders charged with reconciling difference in the House passed and Senate passed versions. The House and Senate both passed WRDA bills before heading home for the campaign season. Here are a few letters infrastructure stakeholders have sent to Committee Leadership this week to help get this bill cross the finish line and become law   Full Use of Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Groups such as the National Manufacturing Association, American Society of Civil Engineers and American Association of Port Authorities signed a letter to advance language in Sec. 2003 of S.2848, which would ensure that the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund is allocated the fullest extent practicable each year. Drinking Water and Clean Water Organizations representing the nation’s drinking water and wastewater utilities, including the American Society of Civil Engineers, National Association of Clean Water Administrators and Association for Metropolitan Water Agencies urged congress to adopt Title VII of S.2848, which would provide important policy changes and authorizations to improve our nations drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Natural and Nature Based Features Conservation groups, such as the Nature Conservancy and engineering groups like CH2M and the American Society of Civil Engineers teamed up to support language in the House WRDA bill that promote the use of natural and nature based features in water resources development projects. In addition to stakeholder letters, several Senators sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Environment & Public Works Committee and the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee encouraging inclusion of the dam rehabilitation provision. The House and Senate have just a few short weeks to reconcile the differences in their respective WRDA bills, but a 95-3 vote in the Senate and 399-25 vote in the House, we’re confident Congress will send a new WRDA bill to President Obama before the end of the year.

No Comments »

A Plan for Aging Dams

October 20th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Earlier this week, the Center for American Progress(CAP) released a report on U.S. dams, Aging Dams and Clogged Rivers: An Infrastructure Plan for U.S. Waterways. The report makes the economic case for the need to increase investment in our infrastructure, citing ASCE’s Failure to Act economic study that found we’re currently paying about half our nation’s infrastructure bill across 10 categories of infrastructure. It also points to the safety risks of this underinvestment, particularly given the “D” grade for our nation’s dams in the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report was released with a panel discussion with stakeholders ranging from the Nez Perce Tribe to the Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Dams tend to be among the more forgotten pieces of infrastructure, given attention primarily when something goes wrong. This report is helping to raise awareness about the importance of dam infrastructure, and the challenges our nation’s 84,000 aging dams are facing. While many dams perform useful purposes, such as drinking water, irrigation, hydropower, flood control, and recreation. However, others have outlived their useful lives, no longer serving the purpose for which they were intended. Repairing, rehabilitating, and removing dams is costly. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that it will require an investment of $21 billion to repair aging, yet critical, high-hazard dams. But there are solutions that can help address these challenges, increasing our dam safety. One is in Senate’s version of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which creates a national dam rehabilitation program to repair, rehabilitate, and remove non-federal dams. It is now up to the leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to include this valuable program in the final version of the bill. CAP’s report also includes policy recommendations to increase our dam safety, including incentivizing the removal of obsolete dams and modernizing dams the are providing useful service. Stay tuned to find out if the National Dam Rehabilitation Program comes to fruition.

No Comments »

WRDA Passes The House

September 29th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5303 the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 late yesterday afternoon by a vote of 399-25. The $11.5 billion bill authorizes over three dozen Army Corps of Engineers flood control, navigation and ecosystem restoration projects and studies across the country.  In addition to the base text reported out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee nearly 40 amendments were added to the bill on the House floor. The final amendment to the bill authorizes $170 million in aid for Flint, Michigan to assist with the drinking water crisis. For months Congress has been struggling with how to respond to the drinking water issue in Flint. At one point earlier this week, democrats were prepared to shut down the government unless the Flint issue was resolved. Around midnight Tuesday, leaders agreed to address Flint in the House WRDA bill, which cleared the way for both short term government spending bill and gave WRDA the votes necessary to pass. Prior to the Flint amendment, democrats threatened to block the bill because another provision requiring funds in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) to be spent every year was stripped out last minute. Democrats led by T&I Ranking Member Peter Defazio (D-OR) wanted to ensure the HMTF was used to the fullest extent each year, whereas now its funds are subject to an unpredictable annual appropriations process. The House WRDA bill is much narrower than the version passed in the Senate two weeks ago by a vote of 95-3. The Senate bill includes a similar list of Army Corps projects, $220 million for Flint and an entirely separate title dedicated to improving the nations drinking water and clean water infrastructure. The additional water infrastructure programs will be the subject of intense the negotiations between Senate and House staff while Congress is home campaigning prior to the November election. When congress returns for the lame duck session in December, the hope is there will be agreement on a WRDA bill that both chambers can easily pass and send to the President’s desk. Congress has committed to passing a WRDA bill every two years, with the last one passing in 2014. Prior to that WRDA bills passed in 2007 and 2000.

No Comments »

Updates to the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

August 31st, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

The Federal Emergency Managed Agency (FEMA) recently released a proposed rule the could transform how the federal government funds infrastructure built in flood prone areas. The draft rule, formally known as Updates to Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands Regulations To Implement Executive Order 13690 and the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard was published for public comment on August 28, 2016. Under the proposed rule, FEMA Federally Funded Projects, which are actions involving the use of FEMA funds for new construction, substantial improvement, or to address substantial damage to a structure or facility would be subject to new elevation requirements. As a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed noted it “[w]hether you are an investor assessing the $2 trillion in bonds that Moody’s found carry elevated near-term climate risk, one of the nearly two million U.S. homeowners facing significant risk from climate-related flooding, or a U.S. taxpayer staring at $360 billion in direct government costs from extreme weather over the past decade—these threats are looming, large and increasing.” In light of these risks, the Obama Administration updated federal flood risk policy for the first time in nearly 40 years by proposing a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS), which orders agencies to review how they spend federal money in flood plains. Part of the directive requires that new construction or substantial improvements made to infrastructure backed with federal money be designed and elevated using one of three methods: (1) Climate-Informed Science Approach (CISA): Utilizing the best-available, actionable hydrologic and hydraulic data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on climate science; (2) Freeboard Value Approach (FVA): Freeboard (base flood elevation + X, where X is 3 feet for critical actions and 2 feet for other actions); (3) 0.2 percent annual chance Flood Approach (0.2PFA): 0.2 percent annual chance flood (also known as the 500-year flood); or (4) the elevation and flood hazard area that result from using any other method identified in an update to the FFRMS. Agencies that have major infrastructure missions (e.g. FEMA, the Department of Transportation, the U.S.  Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Housing and Urban Development) will be closely watched to see which methods or methods they adopt. The first agency to propose their method (via rulemaking) was FEMA, which adopted the Freeboard Value Approach as the baseline approach for both critical and non-critical FEMA Federally Funded Projects. For FEMA investments that are critical actions, the agency would use the Freeboard Value Approach to establish the minimum elevation and allow optional use of the Climate-Informed Science Approach if the elevation is higher than the Freeboard Value Approach. While the FFRMS marks a significant change in federal policy relating to flood resilient design and risk mitigation, the truth is stronger building codes have been adopted by states and local government for decades and the federal government is just now playing catch up. According to FEMA, 22 States and 596 localities have adopted freeboard requirements ranging from 1 to 3 feet. Finally, FEMA expects the expected increase in costs for the new elevation requirement to save both time and money in disaster recovery. Comments on the FEMA rule are being accepted through the federal register through October 21, 2016 using Freeboard Value Approach to establish the elevation and FFRMS floodplain for FEMA Federally Funded Projects that are non-critical actions

No Comments »

Talk to your Members of Congress About Infrastructure this Recess

July 21st, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Members of Congress headed home (and to their respective national conventions last week) and won’t return to Washington until after Labor Day. This gives you, as an infrastructure advocate, the opportunity to talk with your federal lawmakers about our nation’s “D+” infrastructure and specific legislation that they can pass this year to help improve it. The first is the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The Senate version of this bill authorizes 25 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects in 17 states. It would also authorize a much needed dam rehabilitation program. The House also has a version of this bill, which has a narrower scope. WRDA bills are most effective when they are passed every two years. Since the last was signed into law in the summer of 2014, it’s time for Congress to pass another bill. If you’re going to see one of your Senators or Representative and want to talk about WRDA, check out this more extensive backgrounder on the WRDA bills S. 2848 and H.R. 5303. With the passage of the FAST Act last December, many Members of Congress feel like they can ignore surface transportation for another 4.5 years. Help us remind them they can’t! Because the gas tax rate has not kept up with inflation, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has been on the brink of insolvency many times in the past several years. Instead of addressing the HTF’s long-term solvency problem, Congress has relied on general funds transfers for the pas t eight years to prop up the fund, including most recently in the FAST Act. Congress needs to take action to fix the trust fund and ensure its long-term stability. Congressional leaders have been talking about doing a big push on tax reform next year. Remind your Members of Congress to include the HTF.
ASCE State Advoacy Captain Stephan Durham and Rep Jody Hice (GA-R)

ASCE State Advoacy Captain Stephan Durham and Rep Jody Hice (GA-R)

Another piece of legislation important to our nation’s infrastructure is the FAA reauthorization bill. The bill has been undergoing a series of short-term extensions as of late and while a 14.5-month reauthorization bill was just enacted, it did nothing to address our underinvestment in aviation infrastructure. As you travel this summer, there’s a good chance you saw an airport that could use some upgrades—as aviation received a “D” grade in the Report Card. Congress can help fix our airports by increasing funding for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), which is a major source of cash for infrastructure upgrades. They should also increase or even eliminate the cap Passenger Facility Charges (PFC)—user fees levied by airports you pay when you book a flight. Right now PFCs are capped at $4.50 per trip segment, which hasn’t been modified since 2001. Raising or eliminating the cap would allow airports to invest in themselves to the benefit of air travelers. Ask your Senators and Representative to pass a long-term FAA bill that invests in America’s aviation future. To ensure our infrastructure has engineers to design, build, and maintain it in the future, talk to your Members of Congress about the Pre-College Engineering Education Act (H.R. 5679). This bill focuses on engineering part of STEM, and would introduce students to modern engineering tools such as computer-aided design while underscoring the value of professional licensure. If you’re interested of seizing summer recess to talk to your federal lawmakers, here’s a few ways to participate:
  • Visit your Senators’ and Representative’s websites to find out what public events they have scheduled
  • Call your Members of Congress’ District Office and ask to schedule a meeting
  • Use our online advocacy website to send emails to your Members of Congress on these and other infrastructure issues
  • Invite your Members of Congress to come to your group’s meeting (e.g. ASCE section event, PTA, Rotary Club)
  • And, if you’re lucky enough to have a more personal connection with a Member, take a few minutes to discuss infrastructure issues and why they matter at your neighborhood barbecue.
Election Day is not the only way to have your voice be heard. Take these next few weeks to share your thoughts with our nation’s lawmakers and tell them it’s time to invest in our infrastructure—because it will save the typical American family $3,400 a year.  

No Comments »

Momentum for Water Resources Bill Builds; 30 Republican Senators Urge Floor Time

June 30th, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

While gun control and a Puerto Rico debt restructuring package were the central focus of the Senate in the last 10 legislative days, momentum for bringing a major, bipartisan water resources bill to the Senate floor before summer recess is growing in the halls of Congress. Efforts to bring S.2848 the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which first passed out of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) on April 28, made significant headway as 93 WRDA stakeholders urged action on the bill last week. This week that letter was followed by 30 Republican Senators sending a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up the bill. The letter writes that WRDA “contains substantive reforms and authorizations that prepare our nation to compete in the global marketplace, strengthen protections for coastal and inland communities from disastrous floodwaters, modernize Corps policy to ensure efficient and effective project delivery, and create mechanisms to provide affordable clean water and safe drinking water infrastructure.” The letter from Senate Republicans went on to declare that passing WRDA 2016 would be a “victory for all Americans,” and asked that the bill be brought to the floor for passage before the summer recess. It also stated that the legislation would prove Congress can effectively provide bipartisan results to citizens, and will save taxpayers $6 million over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Finally, on Wednesday morning Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) – the legislation’s main sponsor – took to the Senate floor to discuss the importance of the bill. In his speech, Sen. Inhofe discussed major port deepening projects necessary for post Panamax ships, showed pictures of busted water mains and endangered ecosystems – all issues that would be aided through this bill. Calling WRDA a “must-pass bill,” Senator Inhofe emphasized the importance of returning to the original cycle of passing WRDA legislation once every two years. The Chairman of the Senate EPW Committee, Inhofe also praised several key provisions of the bill that would help communities meet their water resources needs while allowing them to prioritize the projects addressing the greatest public health risks.  Regarding the state of America’s water infrastructure, he asserted that, “This is not a partisan problem, this is a national crisis.” With a 91-7 vote on the 2014 WRDA bill, many expect this bill could garner and even stronger vote count. But the question isn’t about support for the legislation- it’s about timing. The Senate recesses on July 15th and many believe the best shot for bringing the bill to the floor is the week of July 11th as votes on immigration have been scheduled following the July 4th weekend. If the Senate does in fact take up WRDA before the summer recess, focus will shift to the House, where a much smaller and more Army Corps focused bill passed unanimously out of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on May 25.  

No Comments »

Help Save America's Infrastructure!
Hide Buttons