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March 13, 2017

How Dire Are America’s Infrastructure Problems?

Last week the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure,” which outlines the condition and performance of American infrastructure by assigning letter grades based on the physical condition of infrastructure today and total of the investments that are needed to improve it.

The report looks at 16 categories of infrastructure, from bridges and schools to railways and ports. Overall, the ASCE gave America’s infrastructure a D+ and found that the United States is facing $4.6 trillion in infrastructure investment needs over the next ten years. (Nearly two thirds of that—approximately $3 trillion—is for surface transportation and electricity infrastructure needs alone.) The report card gave the American ports system a C+ grade while highways received a D; energy infrastructure received a D+; and aviation received a D. (Click here to find out the grades for the other 12 categories.)

Without a competitive infrastructure, the ASCE estimates that it will cost the United States $3.9 trillion in its gross domestic product (GDP)—the equivalent of the size of the German economy. The ASCE said, “Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future.” The group also argued, “[R]eversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people.”

The ASCE releases its infrastructure report card every four years. Readers can access the results of past report cards here. American infrastructure earned a D+ in 2013 as well, but back then the total estimated cost of improvement was just $3.6 trillion over eight years. The ASCE also provides individual report cards for the 50 U.S. states. That information is available here.