Bridges in disrepair, underfunded drinking water systems, roads riddled with potholes. President Biden’s next ambitious goal is to fix the nation’s infrastructure, and a new report suggests he has his work cut out for him.
The American Society of Civil Engineers on Wednesday gave U.S. airports, roads, waterways and other systems a C–, reflecting its view that the nation’s infrastructure is in poor to mediocre shape and in dire need of an upgrade.
“A C–, as you might imagine, is not something to be particularly proud of,” said Thomas Smith, the executive director of the professional group. “There’s a great need for improvement.”
After pushing a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure, the Biden administration is expected to shift its focus to an infrastructure proposal of a similar magnitude. Improving national infrastructure enough to earn a B grade will require an investment of $2.6 trillion over the next decade, the engineering society said.
The group publishes these reports every four years. Despite the dire warnings, the new one bore some good news: The C– is a slight improvement on the D or D+ the group had awarded since 1998. A D reflects a system in poor condition, and a C means mediocre condition. A B is awarded to a system that is “adequate for now,” and an A to infrastructure in exceptional shape and ready for the future.
Since the last report card in 2017, grades improved incrementally in a handful of categories. Increased federal funding helped lift aviation, inland waterways and ports, for example. Drinking water and energy infrastructure also improved as utilities used resources better and became more resilient, though that might seem hard to believe after the dayslong blackouts in Texas recently.
Still, only two of 17 categories were graded better than a C: America’s ports earned a B– and rail a B. Transit scored worst, earning a D–. The nation’s dams, roads, levees and storm water systems got a D.
Mr. Smith said he was optimistic that lawmakers and the public would back major investments in infrastructure, especially as a barrage of costly disasters exacerbated by climate change have laid bare the general state of disrepair.
“There’s just every reason to be doing this, and I feel like we’re learning so many lessons,” he said.