Report Card Time

February 6, 2009

It may still be a few weeks before midterms, but it’s not too early to start thinking about grades.  Every few years ASCE members grade the nation’s infrastructure.  This year’s gpa is a D.

The best place to learn about the 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is online at www.asce.org/reportcard/2009/

ASCE’s report card provides one of the most credible and objective measures of the nation’s infrastructure, so it always makes the news.   The report card was released early this year to coincide with the debate over the economic stimulus package.  For at least one news cycle, all the pundits, from Rush Limbaugh to Jim Kramer (Mad Money), were talking about the miserable state of our infrastructure.

It’s pretty common now to hear both Republicans and Democrats lament the state of the infrastructure.  Talk is cheap, though, and the decline of our infrastructure has continued through decades of legislative inaction.  The public must get involved and force action.

However, ASCE faces an uphill battle convincing the public.  For one, many people don’t understand what constitutes the infrastructure.  Aspects like roads (D-) and bridges (C) are well known, but the term infrastructure also covers dams (D), drinking water (D-), the energy grid (D+), and more.  And consider for a moment that despite recent publicity stemming from the Minneapolis collapse, bridges (C) received one of the better grades.

I believe that many American’s are so proud of our country that they overlook the fact that many other nations reap the advantages of much superior infrastructure.  Our passenger rail (C-) offers limited destinations and frequently late service.  The Eurorail, on the other hand, provides high speed transit virtually anywhere on the continent.  America’s aviation system (D) is crowded and notorious for poor customer service.  Meanwhile, Asia boasts the highest quality airports in the world.  http://www.worldairportawards.com/  Maybe it’s a failure of our schools (D) to discuss the value of infrastructure to society.

Our way of life is largely supported by our infrastructure.  The residents of New Orleans can testify to its importance.  And again, years after Katrina’s destruction, our levees (D-) received the lowest grade on ASCE’s report card.

Take action today to urge your elected representatives to appropriate the necessary resources to re-build America’s infrastructure.  It’s doubly important for civil engineers to stand up.  Infrastructure is what we do.  More money to infrastructure projects will result in more jobs for civil engineers.  We also understand that America can’t graduate into the new world economy without improving it’s infrastructure grades.

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