Infrastructure report card gives roads a poor grade

March 4, 2021

Tyson Fisher


The American Society of Civil Engineers released its quadrennial infrastructure report card, and, although the overall grade is better, it is still not good.

For the first time in 20 years, ASCE’s overall grade for the nation’s infrastructure is a C-minus, up from a D-plus in 2017. Overall grades in 2013, 2009, 2005 and 2001 were D-plus, D-plus, D, D and D-plus, respectively.

However, of the 17 categories graded, 11 are still in the D range, including roads. Compared to the 2017 infrastructure report card, grades improved in five categories: aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways and ports. Bridges was the only category with a worse grade compared to the previous report. New to the report card is the storm water category, which scored an inaugural D.

The 2021 infrastructure report card grades (from highest grade to lowest):

  1. Rail: B (unchanged).
  2. Ports: B-minus (up from C-plus).
  3. Solid waste: C-plus (unchanged).
  4. Bridges: C (down from C-plus).
  5. Drinking water C-minus (up from D).
  6. Energy: C-minus (up from D-plus).
  7. Aviation: D-plus (up from D).
  8. Inland waterways: D-plus (up from D).
  9. Hazardous waste: D-plus (unchanged).
  10. Parks and Recreation: D-plus (unchanged).
  11. Wastewater: D-plus (unchanged).
  12. Schools: D-plus (unchanged).
  13. Roads: D (unchanged).
  14. Dams: D (unchanged).
  15. Levees: D (unchanged).
  16. Storm water D (new).
  17. Transit: D- (unchanged).

Roads and bridges

Most relevant to the trucking industry are the roads and bridges categories. Although bridges have the fourth highest grade, it is also the only category to have a worse grade from 2017. Meanwhile, roads still have a D on the infrastructure report card.

Of the more than 600,000 bridges nationwide, 42% are at least 50 years old, with 7.5% considered to be in poor condition. Nearly 180 million trips are taken on these structurally deficient bridges every day. At the current funding rate, all necessary repairs to bridges will not be complete until 2071.

According to the infrastructure report card, more than 40% of the nation’s road system is in poor or mediocre condition. In terms of dollars and cents, this costs motorists more than $1,000 each year in wasted time and fuel.

Federal funding needed

ASCE’s infrastructure report card highlights the need for more funding from the federal government, including a much-needed infrastructure bill. President Joe Biden is pledging to get an infrastructure bill signed into law. While lawmakers seem to be in agreement on the need to invest in highways, reaching consensus on how to pay for it will be a more difficult task.

In order to fix roads, the infrastructure report card suggests fixing the Highway Trust Fund by raising the federal fuel tax by 5 cents every year for the next five years.

ASCE also recommends that “the current user fee of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel should be tied to inflation to restore its purchasing power, fill the funding deficit, and ensure reliable funding for the future.”

A massive infrastructure will be needed to keep up catch up on delayed work. According the infrastructure report card, the total infrastructure investment gap is about $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years. For surface transportation alone, ASCE estimates $2.8 trillion is needed from 2020 to 2029. However, only $1.6 trillion has been invested, leaving a $1.2 trillion funding gap. LL


WW Williams

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.