The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is pleased to provide this statement for the Subcommittee on the need for a continued strong federal role in the construction and repair of the nation's critical infrastructure systems.
Last March, ASCE released its 2001 Report Card for America's Infrastructure in which the nation's critically important foundation received a cumulative grade of "D+" in 12 infrastructure areas.
Shortfalls in federal and state funding and changing population patterns have placed a tremendous burden on our aging power plants, water systems, airports, bridges, highways and schools.
The reasons for such a dismal grade are numerous: an explosive population growth and school enrollment that outpace the rate and impact of current investment and maintenance efforts; local political opposition and red tape that stymie the development of effective solutions; and the growing obsolescence of an aging system - most recently evident in the breakdown of California's electrical generation system and portions of the nation's decaying water infrastructure.
In short, America has been seriously underinvesting in its infrastructure for decades and our report card reflects that unfortunate reality.
To remedy our infrastructure problem, ASCE estimates that the nation needs to make an investment of $1.3 trillion over the next five years.
Only the federal government has the resources to help underwrite the massive need for a nationwide infrastructure repair effort.
Our 2001 Report Card follows one released in 1998, at which time the 10 infrastructure categories rated were given an average grade of "D." While there have since been some efforts to address infrastructure shortfalls, ASCE's analysis shows that conditions remain basically the same. Five categories have gone up slightly but are still average or below.
Grades in three categories - transit, aviation and wastewater - have gone down. The evaluation of two new infrastructure areas, navigable waterways and energy, have kept the grade point average low.
Grades ranged from a high of "C+" for solid waste to a low of "D-" for schools. Despite being at the extremes, solid waste and schools received better marks than the "C-" and the "F" they received in 1998. Most states have effectively sought alternatives to dumping solid waste into landfills by encouraging recycling - up 50 percent since 1990 - and converting waste to energy. Approximately 17 percent of the nation's solid waste is now converted to energy.
While local governments have increased spending on school construction and maintenance, problems continue to linger as enrollment outpaces construction in many communities. Consequently, the cost to remedy the situation has risen from $112 billion in 1998 to $127 billion. With three-quarters of all school buildings failing to provide an effective environment for learning, due to either outdated facilities or overcrowding, the situation could worsen before things improve significantly.
Transit received a grade of "C-," down from a "C" three years ago, and airports received a "D," down from a "C-" in 1998. While funds have been made available through TEA-21 and AIR-21, appropriated to mass transit and aviation respectively, both systems are struggling to meet usage demands nationwide. Transit ridership has increased 15 percent since 1995, adding a strain despite unprecedented growth in transit systems and increased funding.
Furthermore, existing public transportation systems, such as San Francisco's BART system and Washington's Metro system, are challenged by new commuter patterns that did not exist and were not anticipated when the systems were first designed and constructed.
Airports are already faced with gridlock on a seemingly daily basis. In the past ten years, air traffic has increased 37 percent, while capacity has increased only slightly. The aviation infrastructure, airports, air traffic control system and other components are not keeping up. Furthermore, local politics impede the discussion and implementation of solutions to meet the growing demand.
Wastewater declined from a "D+" in 1998 to a "D," while drinking water remained a "D." Wastewater and drinking water systems are both quintessential examples of aged systems that need to be updated. For example, some sewer systems are a hundred years old. Aged drinking water systems are structurally obsolete.
The shortfalls of $11 billion for drinking water and $12 billion in wastewater only account for improvements to the current system and do not even take into consideration the demands of a growing population.
Along with drinking water, dams was the only other category to have received the same grade, "D," as it did in 1998. In the past two years alone there have been 61 reported dam failures and the number of "high-hazard potential dams" - those whose failure would cause loss of life - increased from 9,281 to 9,921 in 1998. Currently, there are more than 2,100 unsafe dams in the United States, which have deficiencies that leave them highly susceptible to failure.
Energy generation and transmission, a new addition to the 2001 Report Card, scored a "D+" for its growing inability to meet the population's demand for power. More than 10,000 megawatts (MW) of capacity need to be added each year until 2008 to keep pace with the 1.8 percent annual growth in demand. Since 1990, actual capacity has increased only about 7,000 MW per year, an annual shortfall of 30 percent nationwide.
Navigable waterways, the other newly evaluated category, posted a grade of "D+." Navigable waterways encompass the nation's ports, harbor channels, and inland, intracoastal and coastal waterways. Together, this network of waterways moves 2.3 billion tons of commercial goods. In the past 30 years, capital investment for public water resources has decreased 70 percent. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a $38 billion backlog of authorized projects, which would take 25 years to complete at current funding levels.
Three categories showed modest improvements. Roads went up from a "D-" to a "D+," and bridges rose from a "C-" to a "C." Both categories have benefited from an increase in federal and local funding currently allocated to ease road congestion and decaying bridges.
But, with 29 percent of bridges still ranked as structurally deficient or obsolete and nearly a third of major roads considered to be in poor or mediocre condition, we believe that Congress cannot afford to allow promised funding for transportation to lapse.
Efforts to reduce hazardous waste have improved that category's grade from a "D-" to a "D+," primarily because effective regulation and enforcement of current policies have largely halted the contamination of new sites. Yet this grade remains low because the number of sites could grow, creating a backlog in the system.
As dismal as these grades seem, many of the downward trends can be reversed with increased funding and a renewed partnership between citizens, local, state and federal governments. We have taken for granted that our lights will turn on, our roads and bridges won't crumble beneath us and that we'll have clean and safe water when we're thirsty. Without adequate resources, we cannot implement appropriate solutions.
With a projected federal budget surplus shrinking by the month, Congress must not delay the effort to earmark the funds needed to restore our ailing infrastructure. Without these resources, we gamble America's prosperity on an infrastructure whose pipes, schools, and airports are literally at the bursting point.
Mr. Chairman, that completes our statement. Please contact Brian Pallasch or Michael Charles in our Washington Office at (202) 789-2200 if you have further questions.
Founded in 1852, ASCE represents more than 123,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE is a 501(c)(3) organization.