Our Infrastructure Grades are in and America is Falling Behind

Today the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) rolled out the results of the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure during a press conference in Washington, D.C. The report card is a comprehensive assessment of our nation’s infrastructure across 16 different sectors. ASCE releases a new report card every four years, and this year the cumulative grade rose slightly to a D+ from a D in 2009.

The press conference took place along the Anacostia River in Washington with the functionally obsolete Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge in the background. The speakers at the event included ASCE Executive Director Pat Natale, ASCE President and CEO of Tualatin Valley Water Greg DiLoreto, former Pennsylvania Governor and Co-Chair of Building America’s Future Ed Rendell, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse and District of Columbia Bridge Engineer Konjit Eskender.

The NAM's Aric Newhouse speaks during the ASCE 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure press conference

The NAM's Aric Newhouse speaks during the ASCE 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure press conference

A sound and efficient infrastructure is critical to the competitiveness of manufacturers. Rails, roads, ports, inland waterways and airways are used every day by manufacturers to receive the inputs for their supply chains and to deliver their products. While this year’s grade is slightly better than four years ago we are still falling behind and much more must be done to improve our infrastructure.

“This report really makes clear that we’re at a crossroads,” said the NAM’s Aric Newhouse. “From a manufacturing perspective we have a very clear choice a head of us.”

Newhouse cited the example of the Brent Spence Bridge which connects Ohio and Kentucky. The bridge is functionally obsolete, yet the bridge carries commerce worth 4 percent of our nation’s GDP every year. There are other examples just like the Brent Spence Bridge across the country that make clear the need for investments in our infrastructure.

Added Newhouse, “We have a choice as a country, which way do we want to go.” Other countries are rapidly investing in new infrastructure projects and the U.S. will only continue to fall further behind and our global competitiveness will pay the price. “Countries and governments are saying I want what America has. I’m going to make investments to take away their economic leadership.”

Gov. Rendell discussed the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness report which ranked the U.S. in first place in infrastructure in 2005, but by 2012 we had fallen to 14th in the world. “It is a disgrace that in the richest country in the world we have allowed our infrastructure to virtually crumble from lack of investment,” said Rendell.

It’s just not our road and bridges that need to be upgraded. Infrastructure failures along our nation’s inland waterways threaten our economy and manufacturers’ ability to compete. “The inland waterway systems haven’t been updated since the 1950s,” said ASCE President Greg DeLoreto. On average there are 52 service interruptions a day throughout the system. This is not acceptable for manufacturers who rely on the system to transport goods in a timely manner.

The ASCE 2103 Report Card is a strong reminder that we have a lot of work to do to improve our infrastructure. Our out-of-date systems are our holding us back and hurting our competitiveness. To compete in the 21st century economy we must do better and find ways to modernize our infrastructure in order to encourage economic growth, job creation and increased competitiveness.


Leave a Reply