ASCE Report Estimates Failure to Act on Infrastructure Costs Families $3,400 a Year

May 10, 2016

America’s infrastructure investment gap is hitting families where it hurts most – the wallet.

ASCE’s Failure to Act: Closing the Infrastructure Investment Gap for America’s Economic Future 2016 report, released May 10, estimates that continued underinvestment in infrastructure will cost each U.S. family $3,400 a year over the next decade.

“Poor infrastructure means more congestion on our roadways, broken water lines and power outages, and an inability to get our goods to market,” said Greg DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., D.WRE, Pres.13.ASCE, chair of ASCE’s Committee for America’s Infrastructure.

“From lost time, to inconvenience, to spending money to fix our cars or a flooded basement, it’s a very real cost that we’re paying.”

The report is the latest in a series of Failure to Act studies, launched in 2011, that assesses how the nation’s failure to improve its infrastructure systems affects economic performance.

The 2016 study builds on the models established in the 2011 and 2012 research, updating data and projections for infrastructure in five different sectors:

• surface transportation
• water and wastewater
• electricity
• airports
• inland waterways and marine ports infrastructure

The analysis shows that in the years since the earlier reports, various state actions along with some federal funding measures have helped stabilize the infrastructure gap, but the overall picture remains – underinvestment is negatively affecting the nation’s economy.

The most significant gap, according to the report, is in the transportation sector, where an estimated additional $1 trillion is needed across the network (including roads, bridges, and rail) during the next decade.

For businesses, this can mean increased production costs, increased cost of travel, and decreased consumer spending.

At home, it can mean fewer jobs, lower incomes, and more expensive infrastructure in the form of higher costs for transportation, electricity, and water.

“Infrastructure is our economic backbone,” DiLoreto said. “This report again shows us that every day we delay, our infrastructure goes from needing to be repaired to needing to be replaced.”

As daunting as the challenges seem, the majority of the projections remain in the future tense. The report suggests that the economic consequences to both families and businesses could be avoided with an additional investment from Congress and the states of $144 billion each year.

“For the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee, about three dollars per day per household, we can prevent the loss of jobs, lower incomes, and costs to businesses,” DiLoreto said. “The cost of investment offers a good return, as it protects the GDP, jobs, family’s disposable income, and our overall competitiveness.”

The Failure to Act study provides an economic context for the ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure reports, which grade the current state of national infrastructure sectors every four years. The most recent Report Card delivered a D+ average grade across 16 categories. The next national Report Card is slated for release in 2017.

Read the full Failure to Act report, and learn more about the methodology behind the findings.

  • Avatar Kenneth M Clark, P.E.

    The information in your article is not new, nor does the article address the real problem with our infrastructure. Years and years of government ineptness from the local to the federal level has left the country with a very poorly maintained infrastructure have led to major failure in Flint, MI, New Orleans, LA, and other places. The problem will not be solved until the people in government are held criminally responsible for their failure to maintain the infrastructure. Local through state governments are responsible for most of the infrastructure failures.

    More money, spent responsively, by all levels of government cannot correct the problem. A major over haul of all levels of government must be initiated to assign responsibility and penalties for the upkeep of the nations infrastructure.

    • While it is not news that much of our nation’s infrastructure is in poor condition and not receiving the investment it requires, this report is a new assessment of the needed funding for 10 specific areas and updated economic projections for the ramifications of not making the investment. Funding is only part of what is needed to improve our nation’s infrastructure. ASCE recognizes that municipalities and states should and do make the majority of infrastructure decisions, because they can best determine and execute what a community needs. In some cases, the best decision is not made and that unfortunately has led to tragedies. In those cases it is up to the courts to decide who should be held responsible, and an opportunity for civil engineers and infrastructure owners to learn from those mistakes.

      ASCE’s public policy will continue to focus on both increasing investment and encouraging good policies and regulations to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of the public are safeguarded.

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