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

Senate Commerce Subcommittee Explores Multimodal Transportation System Needs

February 16th, 2017 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security convened their first hearing of the 115th Congress. “Moving America: Stakeholder Perspectives on our Multimodal Transportation System” was billed as an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss strategies for improving the efficiency and safety of the nation’s multimodal freight network. In her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman Deb Fischer (R-NB) applauded the previous Congress for passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Unfortunately, acknowledged the Senator, the chronic insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund was not addressed in a meaningful and long-term way by the FAST Act. To mitigate future shortfalls, which are forecasted to resume in 2020 (the same year the FAST Act expires), Senator Fischer touted her “Build USA Infrastructure Act” during Wednesday’s hearing. Fischer’s legislation would divert a percentage of Customs and Border Patrol fees, which are collected on freight and passengers at ports of entry, to the Highway Trust Fund, as well as offer states additional flexibility as they initiate critical transportation infrastructure projects. Four witnesses provided their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for the multimodal freight system. Matt Rose, Executive Chairman at BNSF, spoke at length about how shifts in energy consumption are affecting his industry. Mr. Rose encouraged Congress to be cognizant of freight rail public benefits, including improvements to the environment, reduced highway congestion and associated maintenance costs, and supply chain efficiencies. He finished by imploring Congress to increase investment in U.S. infrastructure at large, preferably through a strengthened “user pays” program. Christopher Lofgren, President and Chief Executive Officer at Schneider National, provided insights into the trucking and transportation logistics industry by overviewing Schneider National’s best practices.  Current freight bottlenecks create challenges for his company, testified Mr. Lofgren, and with U.S. freight volumes anticipated to grow by 45 percent by the year 2040, those challenges will only increase. It’s imperative that Congress increase investment in the country’s surface transportation infrastructure, which will ultimately improve the health of the overall economy. Tom Guard, Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain at the Dow Chemical Company, testified about the unique needs of the chemical industry when getting goods to market. Mr. Guard overviewed his industry’s reliance on multiple modes of transport, including rail, road, and marine, and emphasized the culture of safety used by his company when transporting hazardous materials. Wick Moorman, President and CEO of Amtrak, outlined the clear federal role in maintaining and improving the passenger network. He emphasized to lawmakers that while public-private partnerships can be utilized in some scenarios, those structures cannot replace federal funding. The federal government must provide adequate levels of investment, as well as in leadership in streamlining and environmental review, and removing red tape. Should the White House choose to release an infrastructure investment plan, perhaps in conjunction with the FY 2018 budget request, members of the Commerce Committee and others in the Capitol will explore how the President proposes to spend additional revenue. Congress, including both parties and several Committees of jurisdiction in both the House and Senate, will be instrumental in determining how to make Trump’s campaign promise into a reality.

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New Jersey Infrastructure Receives D+ Report Card

June 16th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

NJRC logoToday, the 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure gave an overall D+ grade for the State’s infrastructure. The report evaluated 13 separate components of New Jersey’s infrastructure, all of which were given a grade based on the components’ condition, capacity, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.  The transit and levee components received the lowest grade of D-, while solid waste received the highest grade of B-.  The other individual grades were: bridges (D+), dams (D), drinking water (C), energy (C+), hazardous waste (C), parks (D+), ports (C), rail (C), roads (D+), and wastewater (D). Throughout the report, the New Jersey Section of the ASCE calls attention to numerous challenges confronting the state’s vast and diverse infrastructure, many of which are magnified by the dangerous insolvency facing New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF).  Key issues concerning infrastructure in the Garden State include:
  • Of the state’s 6,657 bridges, the report found that 1 in 11 are classified as structurally deficient and the average age of New Jersey bridges is 51 years. More than 40% of the state’s bridges are expected to require repair or replacement in the near future.
  • No single agency exists to oversee New Jersey’s 126 miles of levees, despite numerous reports citing significant condition issues with levees across the state.
  • 42% of New Jersey’s roadway system is deficient, with many highways now past their anticipated lifespan. Deficient roads are costing the average driver $1,951 each year.
  • 213 high and significant hazard dams in New Jersey are in poor or unsatisfactory condition, and hundreds of millions of dollars will be necessary to repair them.
  • If the approaching insolvency of New Jersey’s Transportation Trust Fund is not addressed, there will be no permanent revenue source for the billions of dollars of critical investment that is needed in the state’s bridges, transit systems, railways, and roads.
Mindful of the future, however, the New Jersey Section of the ASCE included in the Report Card three major steps to begin improving the overall condition of the state’s infrastructure:
  1. Establish a long-term funding source for the Transportation Trust Fund. This will generate the funds needed for highway, rail and transit projects.
  2. As evidenced by the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the state needs to continue to invest in resilient infrastructure that can better withstand severe weather events and limit the need for frequent, costly maintenance in the future.
  3. In order to address infrastructure assets facing delayed maintenance or replacement, the state must implement new technology and updated strategies to prioritize infrastructure investment.
The 2016 Report Card for New Jersey’s Infrastructure was created as a snapshot of the present state of New Jersey’s infrastructure, as well as a guide for improving infrastructure in the future. Read more about the report, challenges facing New Jersey’s infrastructure, and ways to meet those challenges at www.infrastructurereportcard.org/NJ.  

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Infrastructure in the News: Let the Memorial Day Travel Woes Begin

May 27th, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

Memorial Day weekend has arrived, and with it a dramatic a reminder of the congested and worn out state of our surface transportation infrastructure. As people take to the roads in order to reach their Memorial Day weekend destinations, reports predict that congestion will be at an 11-year peak. According to AAA, more than 38 million Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, and the agency credits this dramatic number to decreased gas prices. Air travel is also expected to increase 1.6 percent over last year, with 2.6 million Americans taking flights, but travel by other modes of transportation is expected to decrease by 2.3 percent. “What we’re seeing is that the demand for travel is greater than ever — but that leads to the question of whether our transportation infrastructure is equipped to support that job-creating activity,” said Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Travel Association. In response to the dubious question of whether our infrastructure can handle increased travel, the media continues to hone in on dire infrastructure conditions and investment needs. CNN published articles about bridge conditions, exposing 90-year-old beams that are disintegrating under bridges due to lack of maintenance, as well as rail systems, which are increasingly plagued with failing power cables. Clearly our surface infrastructure as a whole needs diligent attention. In order to improve our commutes and salvage our bridges and railroads from further damage, it is important that local, state and federal governments work together to find long-term, sustainable funding that will allow for such improvement.

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D.C. Infrastructure Report Card Gives C- Overall, Lowest Grade to Levees

January 14th, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure is an independent review of the current state of infrastructure needs, capability and funding in D.C. by the National Capital Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Report Card was written over the past year by ASCE members from the D.C. region who assigned the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. The report grades the infrastructure assets and is not a reflection of the agencies and professionals who work every day to solve infrastructure issues. It is a tool that shows the condition and importance of D.C.’s vital infrastructure assets that support our daily life or can interrupt our lives if we don’t maintain them. To put it another way, if you drive or ride in D.C., if you drink the water or flush a toilet in D.C., or if you just want infrastructure that works – this Report Card is for you. In the 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure, ASCE assessed 11 categories of infrastructure and found that 3 of them earned poor D grades, 6 earned mediocre C grades, and 2 earned B grades. Levees earned the lowest grade in the Report Card at a D-. Levees protect the capitol area from flooding as well as the Anacostia Bolling base, and both have earned “Unacceptable” ratings creating a need for emergency repairs and an additional $5 million would be needed to finish the work to protect the capitol area. Transit received a D grade due primarily to the condition of Metro system and the safety implications of a lack of consistent funding and focus on maintenance. While bright spots exist with new Metrobuses, Circulator bus success, and an innovative Capital Bikeshare, with 85% of D.C.’s commuters using Metro, it should be clear that this should be a priority not only in D.C. but also for each stakeholder in this system. While we know D.C. Roads are congested, the D+ grade for roads is in large part due to DDOT needing 4 times its current maintenance budget. For every dollar of need, there’s only a quarter to spend. School facilities earned a grade of C- with more than 49 schools reporting at least one “poor” condition structural element, impacting more than 14,000 students. However, almost half of D.C. schools have been modernized which show a tremendous leap in the right direction and a clear investment in D.C.’s future. Energy earned a C with $3 billion needed for electricity upgrades and $650 million need to replace 50-year old natural gas pipelines. Both water and wastewater were given grades of C+. With pipes’ median age being about 79 years old, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are 400 to 550 pipe breaks each year, but we’re starting to replace 1% per year and renew the clean drinking water infrastructure residents use. Wastewater work is happening right now to expand the capacity of our system that will not only prevent neighborhood flooding but improve the quality of the Anacostia River. Solid Waste earned a grade of C+. Our city’s growth is requiring an increase of trucks to take away our waste. While 10% more of it is recycled than a decade ago, we still need to make progress to reach the long-term goal of 45%. We have more Parks per person in D.C. than almost any place in the U.S. yet 50% of D.C.’s open spaces have challenges leading to a C+ grade. Rail received a B- grade due to the significant private investment of CSX in their rail infrastructure and the Virginia Avenue Rail Tunnel allowing 400,000 freight carloads to pass through D.C. While more capacity is need for rail and passengers, future plans being set today could serve D.C.’s needs and improve our congestion. Finally, D.C. Bridges received a B-, one of the highest grades, showing tremendous progress in reducing the structurally deficient bridges from 8% to 3% in just 3 years. The future will require consistent maintenance of older bridges reaching the end of their lifespan, but improvements like this show that diligent management, maintenance, and investment together create the changes we need to see. The Report Card shows us the condition and needs in a letter grade, but what is very clear when you read this report is that innovative solutions to our challenges, like DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project, are going to shape D.C.’s future if we let them. Yes, we have infrastructure challenges, but there are solutions to each of them and some are already on the way and some we need to support to make reality. We’re also going to need to get back to the basics – maintenance needs to be as essential to our budgets as water for hot coffee in the morning. With innovation and maintenance, we can prepare for the future and modernize the infrastructure that will serve us and future generations.

Read the full 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure.

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FAST Act Summary Part Four: Rail

December 16th, 2015 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

This is the fourth and final in a series of summaries posted over the past two weeks on the contents of the newly-passed five-year federal surface transportation authorization law, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The first part explored the law’s funding and the future fiscal health of the Highway Trust Fund. The second part described the highway program elements of the law. The third summary described public transportation or transit policy and this final section focuses on the funding and policy changes to federal passenger rail programs. FUNDING The FAST Act provides $305 billion for highway, transit and railway programs. For rail, it would continue to provide much-needed capital investment for the nation’s passenger rail network while implementing bipartisan reforms aimed at increasing performance and accountability of the nation’s rail operator for intercity passenger service, Amtrak. The law authorizes $10.4 billion for passenger rail programs over the next five years. This authorization does not guarantee funding as this investment must actually be provided annually by Congress via the traditional appropriations process. Amtrak would receive modest annual funding increases of, on average, $90 million which amounts to a total funding level of $8.1 billion over five years. However, a key change in Amtrak budgeting is that funding will be separated between investments that can be spent on the (profitable) Northeast Corridor (NEC) and the (unprofitable) remaining National Network (NN). Over the life of the bill, $2.6 billion will be spent on the NEC while $5.5 billion will be spent on the NN. Remaining Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant programs would receive $2.2 billion over the next five years. POLICY PROVISIONS The FAST Act also:
  • Requires Amtrak to submit profit and loss statements for both the NEC and NN accounts. This will help ensure that adequate investment is being provided for capital infrastructure on the NEC and further seek to end the NEC “cross-subsidy” of long distance, state-supported routes;
  • Improves the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, which provides long-term, low-interest loans for railroad-related improvements, by adding process improvements like approval deadlines to add clarity and reliability for potential borrowers;
  • Requires infrastructure owners like Amtrak and states to annually produce five-year asset management plans and business line plans based on current authorization levels. There shall be four business line plans: NEC; state-supported routes; long-distance routes; and ancillary services;
  • Provides further instruction to the NEC Operating and Advisory Commission and the Amtrak board of directors to produce a more sustainable, long-term investment and operating plan for both the NEC and the national network; and
  • Establishes an independent study of methodologies for determining the cost-benefit and value of routes and services which will be an important process for determining the future scope of the national route network and the offering of intercity passenger rail service. This report will be provided to Congress in 2016 and the Amtrak board of directors will consider the recommendations within 90 days of its release.
ASCE PERSPECTIVE Our Report Card graded the nation’s rail system at a “C+,” noting that passenger rail service continues to receive record-high ridership levels at 31 million trips in fiscal 2014, up from 24 million in 2005, which included growth across all segments: the NEC, shorter regional routes and long-distance routes. A robust rail system is critical to the nation’s ability to move both passengers and freight as a part of a sustainable development and effective mobility strategy. As regional and intercity transportation corridors in the United States become increasingly congested, investment in intercity passenger rail systems is increasingly attractive as part of an overall transportation mobility strategy to provide added capacity and high quality service. Solely adding more lane miles to the Interstate Highway System will not improve freight movement or relieve urban congestion – there should be a holistic approach to viewing these networks as part of an overall national surface transportation system.

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Infrastructure in the News: A Major Bill Goes to Conference

November 6th, 2015 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act of 2015 moving to conference committee and elections on Tuesday, news headlines have been buzzing with wishes and concerns for our nation’s infrastructure. The House has officially approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform Act, a six-year bipartisan bill that will provide flat-level funding. The bill must now be reconciled with the Senate’s DRIVE Act in a conference committee working toward a deadline of Nov. 20—when the current short-term extension expires. This decision has sparked many concerns that the bill only continues with the status quo rather than increasing investment to improve our infrastructure. While there are many economic reasons for investing in infrastructure, the safety reasons are equally critical. The New York Times noted that much of our infrastructure—from dams to roads—is operating beyond its intended design life and that modernization will allow for newer design standards, while also enhancing safety. Infrastructure safety concerns are not limited to roads, but expand to bridges, dams and railroads. The House of Representatives has adopted an amendment directing the U.S. DOT to develop a full strategy to address “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” bridges within the next year. A multi-year surface transportation bill is an important step in addressing our nation’s infrastructure needs. With that being said, flat funding won’t be enough to adequately modernize our infrastructure.

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Infrastructure Needs Crescendo

May 15th, 2015 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

With major delays on the DC metro during rush hour, two train derailments, and Arizona’s state report card release, 15 days until the Highway Trust Fund expires, Infrastructure Week highlighted the importance of investing in infrastructure through and a week of planned infrastructure awareness events and the unforeseen infrastructure problems. echo the pleas for a sustainable funding solution. After an Amtrak train derailed on along the Northeast Corridor Tuesday night killing eight and injuring over 200 people, our nation’s rail infrastructure was thrust into the spotlight. Despite the exact causes for the derailment, which are still unknown, the incident prompted a national conversation about the need to increase investment into our infrastructure. Outlets including International Business Times ,CNBC and Slate discussed the derailment in the context of our aging infrastructure needs, quoting ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card recommendation to “improve passenger rail in dense urban corridor markets and as an alternative to air and automobile travel for intercity markets.” Even if poor rail conditions didn’t cause the derailment, ASCE agrees that a better-funded and maintained system could have prevented it. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, Amtrak is expected to “quadruple its total ridership by 2040,” yet the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee cut Amtrak funding by $252 million this week. While derailments like Tuesday’s have numerous causation factors, infrastructure increased investment is necessary to modernize the system regardless. In addition to Amtrak, 11 to 13 cars from a freight train derailed on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Pa., causing traffic backups. Though this incident did not cause any injuries, the damage expenses reflect the need for better investment upfront. The Washington Post explores the cost of delaying infrastructure repairs and contrasts it with the opportunity investing in infrastructure creates. point to the need for a long-term, sustainable funding solution as Improving the current planning and funding process would not only necessary for maintenance but a way to enhance our nation’s competitiveness, sustainable footprint and create up to an estimated 2 million jobs, the author argues. The Arizona Report Card advocates for keeping infrastructure in a state of good repair because of how important it is to our daily lives. Further, the report underscores the need to invest in smart projects that will support Arizona’s expected population growth and make the state even more economically competitive. Due to infrastructure needs becoming more visibly apparent, states like Arizona have released a state infrastructure report card to carefully evaluate their nation’ infrastructure needs. For Arizona, the infrastructure report card helps them determine which infrastructure sectors need the most investment. From DC’s Metro delays on Monday morning, to state DOTs warning what is at stake if Congress does not fix the Highway Trust Fund , this week shows it’s time for Congress to come together in a bipartisan fashion and Given the Highway Trust Fund’s impending insolvency, it is more critical than ever that Congress work together to pass legislation to that provides a sustainable, long-term funding solution to #FixTheTrustFund.

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8 Amazing 1940s American Infrastructure Images

April 6th, 2015 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

As part of the Library of Congress’ Bound for Glory: America in Color exhibition of newly digitized color images taken of 1940s America, several show the infrastructure that people made their livings working on and that helped grow the country. The photographs are by famed photographers such as John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott and “mark a historic divide in visual presentation between the monochrome world of the pre-modern age and the brilliant hues of the present. They change the way we look—and think about—our past.” View in a departure yard at Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard at twilight. Chicago, Illinois, December 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress A welder who works in the round-house at the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Company's Proviso yard. Chicago, Illinois, December 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress   Welder Mike Evans at Proviso yard of the Chicago and Northwest Railway Company Chicago IL April 1943 Photo by Jack Delano Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress Switchman throwing a switch at Chicago and Northwest Railway Company Proviso yard Chicago, Illinois, April 1943. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress Rebuilt caboose at Proviso yard Chicago IL April 1943 Photo by Jack Delano Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress Shasta dam under construction. California, June 1942. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress TVA's Douglas Dam TN June 1942 Photo by Alfred T Palmer Prints and Photographs Division Library of Congress Road cut into the barren hills which lead into Emmett. Emmett, Idaho, July 1941. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress Bound for Glory Exhibition

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