The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is a professional body founded in 1852 to represent members of the civil engineering profession worldwide.
Its mission is to “provide essential value to our members and partners, advance civil engineering, and serve the public good”. ASCE strives to “facilitate the advancement of technology”, “encourage and provide the tools for lifelong learning”, promote professionalism, influence public policy, “develop and support civil engineer leaders”, and “advocate infrastructure and environmental stewardship”.
To achieve these goals, the society assigns letter grades every four years that are based on physical condition and needed investments for improvement.
The Report Card depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card.
Over 30 civil engineers with substantial experience in various types of infrastructure volunteer their time and expertise for over a year to complete the Report Card. The Council members review and assess all relevant data and reports, consult with technical and industry experts, and assign grades according to the following eight criteria:
- Capacity – Evaluate the infrastructure’s capacity to meet current and future demands.
- Condition – Evaluate the infrastructure’s existing or near future physical condition.
- Funding – Evaluate the current level of funding (from all levels of government) for the infrastructure category and compare it to the estimated funding need.
- Future Need – Evaluate the cost to improve the infrastructure and determine if future funding prospects will be able to meet the need.
- Operation and Maintenance – Evaluate the owners’ ability to operate and maintain the infrastructure properly and determine that the infrastructure is in compliance with government regulations.
- Public Safety – Evaluate to what extent the public’s safety is jeopardized by the condition of the infrastructure and what the consequences of failure may be.
- Resilience – Evaluate the infrastructure system’s capability to prevent or protect against significant threats and incidents and the ability to recover with minimum damage to public safety and health, the economy, and national security.
- Innovation – Evaluate innovative techniques and delivery methods.
The most recent report card was in 2013, and did not appeal to many Dean’s Lists.
The ASCE also provides solutions for improvement and further explanations are found on their website.
- Increase Federal Leadership in Infrastructure
“During the 20th Century, the federal government led the way in building our nation’s greatest infrastructure systems from the New Deal programs to the Interstate Highway System and the Clean Water Act. Since that time, federal leadership has decreased, and the condition of the nation’s infrastructure suffered.”
- Promote Sustainability and Resilience
“Infrastructure systems must be designed to protect the natural environment and withstand both natural and man-made hazards, using sustainable practices, to ensure that future generations can use and enjoy what we build today, as we have benefitted from past generations. Additionally, research and development should be funded at the federal level to develop new, more efficient methods and materials for building and maintaining the nation’s infrastructure.”
- Develop Federal, Regional, and State Infrastructure Plans
“The plans must reflect a better defined set of federal, state, local, and private sector roles and responsibilities and instill better discipline for setting priorities and focusing funding to solve the most pressing problems. Infrastructure plans should be synchronized with regional land use planning and related regulation and incentives to promote non-structural as well as structural solutions to mitigate the growing demand for increased infrastructure capacity.”
- Address Life-Cycle Costs and Ongoing Maintenance
“As infrastructure is built or rehabilitated, life-cycle cost analysis should be performed for all infrastructure systems to account for initial construction, operation, maintenance, environmental, safety and other costs reasonably anticipated during the life of the project, such as recovery after disruption from natural or manmade hazards.”
- Increase and Improve Infrastructure Investment from All Stakeholders
“All levels of government, owners, and users must renew their commitment to infrastructure investments in all categories. All available financing options must be explored and debated. While great strides can be made with sustainable development and ongoing maintenance, to make necessary long-term improvements, significant funds must be invested.
In addition, users of the infrastructure must be willing to pay the appropriate price for their use.”
What do you think? Is the ASCE being too harsh? What would you recommend?