America gets a “D” from the ASCE

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released their 2009 Report Card for American Infrastructure this morning. If we were a student and we brought home these grades, we’d surely be grounded. We might be looking at military school.

The overall grade of “D” was the same as the nation received the last time ASCE assessed the state of our infrastructure system in 2005. According to AP, the highest score is a C+ for solid waste. Only one category improved — energy went from a D to a D+. Three areas dropped: aviation and public transit slid from D+ to D and the highway system went from D to D-.

ASCE is holding a press conference and live webcast at 10 a.m. to announce the results and give more details. As this is the kind of easy-to-get, research-free sound bite that journalists of today thrive on, expect the ASCE report card to be mentioned on every network and in every major newspaper and magazine over the next few days. Just don’t expect any of them to delve too deeply into the results or provide much in the way of perspective — U.S. media outlets don’t seem to have the time or inclination to do that kind of thing anymore.

ASCE has done the industry and the country a tremendous service by drawing attention to the horrible state of our infrastructure system. Still, I hope the full report — to be released in March — offers some big-picture solutions that go beyond the call for insane amounts of money ($2.2 trillion now, according to AP) to be invested by government to fix the problem. If we really want to repair our infrastructure problem, it’s going to take some combination of dollars and innovative thinking to get it done. This includes more public-private partnerships, more efforts to ease the burden on our infrastructure system, and more efficient use of the money that we do spend on infrastructure.

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