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

New Game Changers are here!

September 20th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

Today we added 15 new #GameChangers and two new trends to the repertoire. These projects showcase the power that innovation and investment can have to solve problems and improve our infrastructure. “Rebuilding Stronger” and “Sustainable Solutions” are the new trends we’ve identified that are shaping the way infrastructure is designed, built, and maintained. The projects in these two new trends demonstrate that resilient and sustainable infrastructure are more than buzz words—they are tangible solutions to the new challenges U.S. infrastructure is facing. Check out all the new #GameChangers: And if you know of one we’ve missed, let us know. We’re on the hunt for #GameChangers to include in the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card.

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White House Holds Summit to Discuss Disaster Financing and Resilient Recovery

August 3rd, 2016 | By: Whitford Remer

On Wednesday the White House hosted a Forum on Smart Finance for Disaster Resilience to “highlight innovations in disaster mitigation and resilience finance, including emerging public-private collaborations with banking, insurance, and financial services sectors.” According to NOAA the U.S. has sustained 196 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 196 events exceeds $1.1 trillion. Flooding alone caused for $260 billion in damages from 1980 to 2013. Just this week a 1-in-1,000-year flood event caused significant damage and tragic loss of life in the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland. West Virginia, Texas, Illinois and South Carolina have all experienced significant flood events in the last three years. As the federal government, insurance companies and local recovery programs assist these communities, it’s important to consider tools that can be used to help reduce similar losses in the future. Resilient design standards, changes to insurance policies, and green bonds were all topics of discussion at the White House event. The idea of resilient recovery has become more common following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when high wind and coastal storm surge devastated the Northeast at a cost of $67 billion. Redefining the role of the federal government in disaster recovery, properly balancing risk for private insurers and encouraging home owners to strengthen their homes (see the FORTIFIED Program) are all good starts. Key to ensuring that infrastructure is built safe and strong lies with the engineers who design it. However, the engineering profession has for too long relied on historical data for its design parameters, when a paradigm shift is needed to design for future conditions. With more than 50 percent of Americans living in coastal counties, key infrastructure (e.g. ports and energy facilities) and evacuation routes are increasingly vulnerable to impacts like higher sea levels, storm surges, and flooding. Inland communities face similar problems of riverine flooding, drought and forest fire. While there’s no one right answer, the White House forum demonstrated it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. With the right policies and building codes in place, combined with emergency planning, people can live and safely and comfortably in their community. The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers resources to help guide communities in the financing of high performing infrastructure.  The days of free unhinged disaster response funds are likely behind us, and requiring communities to build stronger will keep us safer and ultimately save money and lives in the long run.

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California’s Orange County Infrastructure Isn’t Improving

July 21st, 2016 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers today released its 2016 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card, grading 12 categories of the county’s infrastructure, resulting in an overall grade point average of “C+.” The Report Card was developed in collaboration with the UC Irvine Civil and Environmental Engineering Affiliates, an advisory group to the UCI Samueli School’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. A team of professional engineers from Orange County assessed the 12 categories, including Aviation (A-), Electric Power (C-), Flood Control & Levees (C-), Ground Transportation (C), Natural Gas (B-), Oil (B-), Parks, Recreation & Environment (C+), School Facilities (C), Solid Waste (B), Surface Water Quality (D+), Wastewater (B), and Water Supply (B). This is the fourth Orange County Infrastructure Report Card. The first, released in 2002, gave the county’s infrastructure a GPA of “C;” in subsequent releases in 2005 and 2010, the GPA has stayed constant at a “C+.” “In this first assessment of Orange County’s infrastructure since the 2008 recession, we found that while some areas have improved incrementally, others have declined, leaving our overall GPA stalled for more than a decade,” said Yaz Emrani, P.E., OC Infrastructure Report Card Chair. “Since our infrastructure works as a system, it’s important that Orange County increase investment so that we can move our infrastructure from ‘catching up’ to ‘ready for the future.’” The 2016 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card finds that much of the county’s infrastructure needs additional investment to keep up with demand. Of note:
  • While commercial traffic at John Wayne Airport approaches the current negotiated passenger limit of 10.8 million annual passengers until 2020, both general aviation and military demand fall short of meeting Orange County’s available capacity.
  • Funding shortfalls for needed upgrades to bring regional flood control facilities in the county to its standards continue to be in excess of $2.7 billion.
  • Deferred maintenance during the recent recession has exacerbated ground transportation needs. The existing funding sources are inadequate to meet the current and future demand, and it is estimated Orange County needs an additional $133 million annually.
  • The condition of school facilities has declined in the past five years due to lack of funding.
  • Due to increased volume of stormwater runoff during storm events, existing surface water quality infrastructure in Orange County does not have nearly the capacity to meet wet weather demands.
Given these infrastructure challenges, the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers urges a number of recommendations to raise the grades, including:
  • Performing continuous and timely maintenance on the infrastructure to prolong use and minimize the need for costly repairs.
  • Conducting comprehensive planning and long-term investment to ensure sound decisions about infrastructure.
  • Preserving the environment while fostering economic growth and personal mobility.
To view the full Orange County report, visit www.ASCECAReportCard.org.

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Florida’s Infrastructure Needs to Keep up with Growth

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

1Impact of Florida’s Infrastructure

Infrastructure is the backbone of Florida’s economy and a necessary part of every Floridian’s day. The Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2016 Report Card for Florida’s Infrastructure on Thursday, July 14. The report includes an evaluation of the state’s aviation, bridges, coastal areas, drinking water, energy, ports, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater (see grades below).

Keeping Up With Growth

One of the key findings from this report is that Florida is growing, and the State’s infrastructure needs a growth spurt of its own to keep up. Recently Florida’s population has grown at a rate of about 1% per year, adding about 1 million people, which is the equivalent of adding a city the size of Jacksonville every 5 years. Some cities and counties are stepping up their efforts, but more needs to be done across the state by every infrastructure owner. The good news is that investments in areas like bridges and smart technology investment solutions seen in ports and airports are raising Florida’s grades. As Florida grows, investing in infrastructure must be Florida’s top priority to continue to be the place people want to live and work as well as attract visitors from around the country and the world.  

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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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State of Our Union Will Strengthen With Infrastructure Investment

January 13th, 2016 | By: Becky Moylan

President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. Among the goals he set out was the need to build a “21st century transportation system.” He went further, posing the question of how we can utilize technology to solve our nation’s challenges. Modernizing our transportation network and offering innovative solutions to improve our nation’s infrastructure are key to improving America’s “D+” infrastructure. Infrastructure #GameChangers identifies the top trends in technology and innovation that are advancing infrastructure. While the President did not get into the specifics, these gamechangers demonstrate that America can find innovative solutions to our nation’s infrastructure challenges. From transforming wastewater into energy today to autonomous and connected vehicles in the future, improving our nation’s infrastructure will take ingenuity and investment. Check out more of the ways that technology is solving our nation’s infrastructure challenges. In just over a year, the American Society of Civil Engineers will release the 2017 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, providing an assessment of the state of our infrastructure. In the meantime, it’s up to our elected leaders at the federal, state, and local levels to continue prioritizing investment into the backbone of our economy.

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New Game Changers Report Identifies Top Trends Shaping Infrastructure

July 23rd, 2015 | By: Becky Moylan

GC Squares and Title LogoThe challenges our infrastructure faces are chronicled frequently on this blog and in the media. The Highway Trust Fund heading toward insolvency (again). Water main breaks occurring every two minutes. Congested roadways causing us each to lose time and waste gas. But that’s only half the story. Today, we released our new Infrastructure #GameChangers report, which identifies the top trends in energy, freight, transportation and water that are transforming the way infrastructure is designed, planned, and built. The communities that chose to make the investment across the country are reaping the benefits, by preparing for tomorrow’s challenges and positioning themselves for economic growth. Here are some of the trends explored in the report: Transportation
  • Ridesharing and transit apps
  • Robotic inspections
  • Bus rapid transit
  • Smart parking systems
  • Accelerated bridge construction
  • LiDAR and drone technology
  • Integrating renewables
  • Preparing for blackouts with resilience
  • Extracting energy from waste
  • Recycled and reclaimed water
  • Desalinated water
  • Public-private partnerships for inland waterways
  • Preparing for the Panama Canal expansion
Check out these and many others at ASCEgamechangers.org. Then be sure to share your favorite on social media using #GameChangers. And if you know of an innovation we’ve missed, tell us about it to include in future updates.

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Infrastructure That’s Changing the Game

July 14th, 2015 | By: Becky Moylan

GC Squares and Title LogoOur nation’s aging infrastructure is facing big challenges. But congested roadways and overflowing sewers are only half the story. That’s why the American Society of Civil Engineers is releasing a new report about the innovative ways communities across the country are modernizing infrastructure. Infrastructure Game Changers highlights trends in energy, freight, transportation and water infrastructure that are changing the way we design, plan, and build projects. The web-based report will be released on Thursday, July 23rd. Stay tuned so that you can be among the first to check it out, share it on social media using #GameChangers, and even submit your own game changing infrastructure trend.

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Obama Budget Goes Big on Infrastructure

February 2nd, 2015 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

Photo of the cover of President Obama's FY16 Budget Request; credit: Twitter photo from @jonathanweisman, New York Times economic policy reporter

Photo of the cover of President Obama’s FY16 Budget; photo credit: Twitter image via Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times economic policy reporter

Transportation Today’s fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget release by President Obama was particularly generous to infrastructure programs. The President is proposing a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation (MAP-21) reauthorization proposal titled the GROW AMERICA Act paid for by taxing companies’ overseas profits. The bill length is historically similar to other long-term highway & transit bill authorizations, and the funding amount would be enough to plug the projected annual $13 billion Highway Trust Fund shortfall and grow the program by more than $10 billion over the next six years. While Obama’s budget does not call for an increase in the gasoline tax, as some members of Congress have proposed and ASCE supports, if enacted, this proposal would allow for increased program certainty for the short-term while Congress continues to debate identifying a long-term, sustainable funding fix the program. The tax piece of this plan would establish deemed repatriation at a 14% tax rate for existing overseas earnings and end tax deferral going forward with a 19% tax on future offshore corporate profits. The budget also calls for the establishment of a number of tax incentives and tax-credit bonds as part of the President’s Rebuild America Partnership which was launched last year and is focused on ways to increase the amount of private capital invested in US infrastructure. The budget calls for the creation of an independent National Infrastructure Bank to support infrastructure projects of national and regional significance, and creates America Fast Forward Bonds and tax-exempt Qualified Public Infrastructure Bonds to help state and local governments attract new sources of capital for infrastructure projects. ASCE has and will continue to work with the Obama Administration to help shape this public-private partnerships (P3) initiative. Environment, Energy and Water Resources As a part of President Obama’s continued effort to address climate change, the budget invests heavily in resilience and preparedness programs. The budget notes that the federal government has incurred over $300 billion in direct costs due to extreme weather and fire over the last decade. The budget creates two new coastal resilience programs aimed at help reduce the risks of climate change to ecosystems and communities. The budget also provides $20 million for the Climate Resilience Toolkit. The budget provides tax credits for clean energy programs like wind and solar and over $4 billion to help states implement the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) carbon emissions mandate known as the Clean Power Plan. The budget bolsters EPA’s overall spending by 9% to $8.6 billion, but cuts $54 million from the State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, leaving $900 million for drinking water and $1.4 billion for clean water.  The budget provides $4.7 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Program, focusing on investments that will yield high economic and environmental return or address a significant risk to public safety, but cuts the operation & maintenance program by $199 million. Finally, the budget includes the Administration’s legislative proposal to reform the laws governing the Inland Waterways Trust Fund (IWTF), including an annual per vessel fee to increase the amount paid by commercial navigation users enough to meet their share of IWTF-funded activities. The additional revenue would help finance future capital investments in these waterways, which are part of the Nation’s freight transportation infrastructure. STEM Education The President’s budget provides more than $3 billion on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, a 3.6% increase over 2015 enacted levels. The budget provides strong support for STEM education, including a new $125 million competitive program to promote the redesign of America’s high schools by integrating deeper learning and student-centered instruction, with a particular focus on STEM-themed high schools that expand opportunities for girls and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. Research The President’s budget request includes a significant increase in proposed research funding, noting that US long-term economic competitiveness depends upon continued robust investment in research and development (R&D). The budget provides a 6 percent increase for R&D, including significant investments in basic research and advanced manufacturing technology. Among the specifics the budget provides the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science with over $5.3 billion and the National Science Foundation (NSF) with over $7.7 billion. The budget also provides $755 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) laboratories. The budget increases total funding for these three key basic research agencies by $700 million over the 2015 level, bringing the total to $13.8 billion.

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Harnessing the Natural Process for Clean Water in Colorado

August 20th, 2014 | By: Infrastructure Report Card

Aurora Water Let’s Envision the Infrastructure for Tomorrow America’s infrastructure needs a national commitment to bring existing infrastructure into a state-of-good-repair, and in the long term we must modernize and build in a targeted and strategic manner. This means leadership at the federal, state, and local levels of government, by businesses and individuals, to communicate the importance of our nation’s infrastructure, to craft innovative solutions that reflect the diverse needs of the nation, and to make the investments the system needs. By employing strategies to use every dollar more efficiently and by deploying creative solutions to infrastructure development such as public–private partnerships, we can implement the right projects on time at the right price. Below is a brief success story that shows how we can do this effectively. Water Success Story: Harnessing the Natural Process for Clean Water
During 2003, the city of Aurora, Colorado, was months from needing to ration water to maintain a dwindling supply decimated by a severe drought. With a municipal water system serving 300,000 people on the brink of collapse, city leaders developed the Prairie Waters Project to ensure that it was capturing all the water the city currently owns in wells near the South Platte River’s bank for use by Aurora residents. The water collected is piped 34 miles to a new purification facility near the Aurora Reservoir that combines natural purification with advanced engineering solutions. The facility is designed to work in conjunction with the project’s natural purification area, where water percolates with the natural sand and gravel found along the river. Because this process purifies the water naturally, there is no waste that must be discharged back into the river, and it greatly reduces the demand on more energy-intensive filtration. Colorado’s volatile water market makes purchasing additional water resources time-consuming and expensive. Not only is the project cost-effective through developing already owned water resources, but other design and operation features work together to maximize the use of city funds. The Prairie Waters Project delivers water to the city fast and on time, and uses water from the South Platte River, which will be available even when other supplies are low.

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