The 2021 edition of the ASCE Infrastructure Report Card is out! It brings light to the current conditions of America’s infrastructure by assessing different individual categories, from bridges to hazardous waste. As a civil engineer working in one of these fields, you should probably check this out.
Therefore, today we’ll dive into the main points of the report. This includes the many challenges the country still has to face, the recommendations on how to improve the infrastructure moving forward, and why this means that civil engineers will be needed MORE than ever before!
What You’ll Learn:
- What is the Current Overall Grade of America’s Infrastructure?
- What is the Grade It Should Be Aiming at?
- What are the Different Categories Used in the Report?
- The Approximate Investment Amount Needed in Each Category
- Recommendations to Increase the Grades―And Why It Means “JOBS AVAILABLE!”
- How is the Report Put Together in the First Place?
- Three Infrastructure Trends Worth Noting
- The Grades of Some of the Categories, From Bridges to Energy
- How You Can Take a Look at the Report Too―And Why You Should
Built Bar – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/built
2021 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card – https://infrastructurereportcard.org
CEA Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
CEA FREE Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Additional Resources Mentioned:
NCEES – https://ncees.org
Engineer to Entrepreneur – https://engineer2entrepreneur.net
Civil Engineering Reference Manual – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi (Use this link to grab a copy for a 15% discount)
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, what's up everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy, jumping on real quick. Thankful that you are here for another podcast episode. I really do appreciate you giving this a listen and a look, and really do appreciate it. So give us a like if you like us, and we appreciate that. Anyway, today we're going to talk about the new -- Well, I guess it's relatively new. The ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card. And I just wanted to kind of walk through it with you, and maybe we could talk about it and discuss it. If that's something you're interested in, maybe that's a boring topic to you, but I always find it interesting how these things are graded, how America is doing, and then how you can look into individual states, and how things are in a variety of different sectors. So we'll just check this out a little bit, see how the overall grades are, see how we're doing and what we can do to improve in the future. And really just get a feel for this whole report, and where America is on their infrastructure and where we're headed. And I think it would be fun to walk through with you. So, having said that, that's what's coming up. And excited to share it with you. It'll be coming up right after this.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. So what I want to do is, for those that watch us on YouTube, I'm just going to share my screen of this report. We're just going to kind of walk through a lot of the information that's in there, kind of do a review of it. And those on audio, we're going to talk through it as well so you can hear us. So I'm going to switch right over to the report card. Boom! Here we go. The ASCE comprehensive assessment of America's infrastructure. And so, it begins with a letter from the president, that in 1852, the ASCE is the oldest civil engineering organization. There are significant challenges going forward. Bold leadership and actions needed. Long-term and consistent investment in new approaches to ensure the resilience of our infrastructure. I work in the energy industry and that word, resilience, is the big buzz word. And I'm sure it looks like it's being used in a lot of different areas as well. So, resilience. Handle everything that's thrown at it.
Isaac Oakeson: So under the table of contents, they're going to talk about key findings, how they do this report in the first place, infrastructure categories, investment pays, and a lot of other things, including recommendations on how to raise their grades and all the infrastructure categories, which includes aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks, rail and roads, schools, solid waste, stormwater, transit, and wastewater. So all of these are categories where civil engineers are heavily involved. And there's obviously a great value in having to eventually get your PE license. So if you haven't got that, or you're working towards it, I congratulate you. And if you need help, definitely go check out civilengineeringacademy.com. You can go check out our courses too. Civilfereviewcourse.com, if you need to pass the FE. And civilpereviewcourse.com, if you need to go pass the PE. We are going to be here ready to help you.
Isaac Oakeson: So, all right. That's the table of contents. Introduction to this thing is that the infrastructure supports nearly every aspect of our life, which is the beauty about being a civil engineer, right? Is that everything that we do as civil engineers affects everything that we do in life. And although the public doesn't really recognize that, most people don't even know what a civil engineer is, you've got everything from water to buildings, hospitals, airports, railroads, everything, okay? Everything we use. So they've introduced with that.
Isaac Oakeson: Alright. Key findings. Here we go. The 2021 Report Card for America's infrastructure reveals we've made some incremental progress towards restoring our nation's infrastructure. For the first time in 20 years, our infrastructure is out of the D range. Let's give everyone a hand. All right, way to go! We're out of the D range. We are in the C range now. We got a C minus. And if anyone's going to college, you know that C's get degrees, okay? I'm just messing with you. There's obviously room for improvement, but we're out of the D's. We're getting a C minus, apparently. So for the first time in 20 years! That's a long time. It's good news. We're headed in the right direction.
Isaac Oakeson: So I'll just read a little bit of this. The 2021 grades range from a B in rail to a D minus in transit. Five category grades, aviation, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, and ports went up, while just one category, bridges, went down. And stormwater infrastructure received its first grade, a disappointing D. Zoom in on that. D, okay? A clear signal that our overdue bill on infrastructure is a long way from being paid off. So you know, that those are all the categories. They're ranging everything from a B down to a D. But overall that's pretty good, right? We're improving. What does it mean that we're improving? There's a lot of little things to this, but a lot of it has to do with how much money that we're funding for these projects. I mean, that's kind of the bottom line in a lot of this. It's where's the money going and what are we spending money on?
Isaac Oakeson: So, all right. It says, "We grade 17 categories individually. Our infrastructure is a system of systems, and more connected than ever before". So, as they look at this, there's actually three trends that are worth kind of noting. One is that maintenance backlog continue to be an issue. So asset managers have to prioritize the funding for those, which continues to be a problem. So you know, sectors like transit and wastewater have staggering maintenance deficits. And so they have to figure that out. Two, state and local governments have made progress. There's been investments made into our infrastructure. And so, because of that, grades go up, right? There are at least 25 major cities and states now that have chief resilience officers. There's that word again. And these guys are just, you know, made to help make improvements, right? Make improvements. Third thing here is that there are still infrastructure sectors where data is scarce or unreliable. So like school facilities, levees, stormwater still suffer from really a lack of information. And so it's hard to really target those. So that's kind of the framework behind all this. Obviously, they're saying that we're headed in the right direction, which is good, good news. But something to consider.
Isaac Oakeson: So, quickly about this report card. This is made up basically of a committee, this America's infrastructure report card. They have 31 people dedicated to this across the country with expertise in all kinds of categories. And that's really how that goes. And that's what they state in their report. So, the committee assesses all relevant data and they assign grades based on a bunch of things. One of them is capacity. Does the infrastructure meet future demands and current demands? The condition. You know, what is the condition? The funding. What are the funding levels of it? What are future needs of it? What's the cost to improve things? Operation and maintenance. You know, what's the ability of the owners to operate and maintain this stuff? Public safety is part of this. Resilience in order to protect against multiple hazards and threats and incidents, including, you know, weather cases and all that fun stuff. Innovation. What new and innovative technique and materials and technologies and delivery methods are being implemented to improve the infrastructure? So those are all the methodologies, all the kind of categories that they grade this stuff on. And that's what you get.
Isaac Oakeson: They go on to talk about every category that they talk about. And every four years, the ASCE estimates the investment needed in each infrastructure category to maintain the state of good repair and earn a grade of B. And so that's typically where they want us. And in this report, they basically discover a few things, okay? We're still just paying off about half of our infrastructure bill that we need. And the total investment gap has changed. It's gone from $2.1 trillion over 10 years to nearly $2.59 trillion over 10 years. They're stating that by 2039, continued under investment in our infrastructure at current rates is going to cost us $10 trillion in gross domestic product, GDP, more than 3 million jobs in 2039, and it's going to cost us $2.4 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.
Isaac Oakeson: So you know, we lose a lot of money, it sounds like, by the year 2039, if we don't make investments into our infrastructure, which kind of sucks. But that's where we're at. And they explicitly state here, "When we fail to invest in our infrastructure, we pay the price. Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution makes utilities unreliable." And they all translate to a lot of money. What they're stating is that by 2039, America's overdue infrastructure bill will cost the average American household $3,300 a year or $63 a week. When we fail to invest in our infrastructure, they're stating that we will eventually pay the price. I guess one thing that is on my mind as I review this is that, even with these costs shown that they're stating, you know, what is the cost of that today? I guess you could figure this by figuring out what the present value is of that dollar, bringing it back into 2021. If we had to spend $3,300 or $63 a week in 2039, what are we willing to spend today? So good questions. But, you know, that's kind of where we're at.
Isaac Oakeson: They go on to break down investment needed by each system. And they say what the total needs are by dollar figures. They also state what has been funded of that need, and then what, basically, the gap is. And so, broken up into different sections of all those categories we have talked about, and that includes transportation, drinking water, electricity, airports, waterways, dams, hazardous waste, levees, public parks, and schools, the total needed is about $6,000. They're stating that we have funded about $3,300 and that we have a gap of something around $2,600. So that's the breakdown of that.
Isaac Oakeson: Just quickly, let's talk about recommendations for our infrastructure report card. Because, you know, what's good of pointing all this out if we don't have good recommendations? So they want to recommend some things that are going to help raise the grade to improve our quality of life and strengthen our international competitiveness. "We need a strategic and holistic plan to renew, modernize, and invest in our infrastructure." So a lot of words, but basically what they're stating here is that -- They've broken this down into three different areas that they see improvements. First one is that they expect leadership in action. They want strong leaders, decisive action, and a clear vision for our nation's infrastructure, which involves, you know, better asset management, streamlined permitting processes, ensure that all investments are spent wisely, prioritizing projects with the best benefits, leveraging emerging technologies, look at life-cycle costs to help determine the cost of building and operating and maintaining during a lifespan of a structure, support research, and development of new materials, promote sustainability for long-term investment. And that's it. So that first category for their recommendation is better leadership.
Isaac Oakeson: And I'm just looking at those categories, and each one of those is a job for somebody, you know? That's out there. So there's lots of work, lots of work for civil engineers. If you've ever considered coming into this field, I definitely recommend it. There's plenty of work. Very stable, very good. And you can do well with it.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. The second category or the thing that they recommend is investment dollars. Obviously, things cost money. I like how they put it number two and not number one. So you know, that's good. It all starts with leadership, I guess. So you've got to have strong leadership, and we have to know where our [inaudible] spend our money. In the United States, it sounds like we're getting more serious about achieving an infrastructure system fit for the future to increase long-term consistent investment on that.
Isaac Oakeson: So they're saying that we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector up a whole percentage. So from 2.5% to 3.5% of us gross domestic product by the year 2025, which, you know, I think is naturally happening. There's a lot of bills going through where they want to spend a whole lot of money on infrastructure, and the cost of things just is going up. And I think that's just going to naturally happen. One of the things they stated that "Congress should fully fund authorized infrastructure programs. Infrastructure owners and operators must charge, as Americans must be willing to pay, rates reflecting the true cost of using, maintaining, and improving infrastructure." I've heard a lot of different bills that are going through Congress, including, you know, the rise of electric vehicles, how they're going to bill for that, which could be a per mile use of roads, right? So a lot of changes there.
Isaac Oakeson: The surface transportation investment gap has the largest deficit in all the categories. And so they're really encouraging that Congress must fix the highway trust fund. And there are also going to talk about that all parties should strive to close the rural or urban and underserved community resource by ensuring adequate investment in these areas through program MADEC set asides. So, you know, I guess we've got to improve both ends there. All parties should make use of public-private partnership. That's a lot of P's where appropriate. So invest some money into the infrastructure. That's going to improve it.
Isaac Oakeson: And then the last thing they talk about is resilience. So we want to have a more resilient infrastructure. We must utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure can withstand or recover from natural or man-made hazards, and all of that fun stuff. So enabling communities regardless of size to look at resiliency, incentivize and enforce the use of codes and standards, which should help with that, understanding that our infrastructure is a system of systems, and look at things as a big picture and how they affect each other. You know, when energy is affected, when transmission lines get through some cold winter storms, like what did we have recently in Texas, the big ice storm, the Arctic winds that came down there and just crushed the energy sector down there. It wasn't good. So you have to look at all those things. Prioritizing projects and improve the safety and security of systems and communities to ensure continued reliability and resilience, improve land and planning across all levels of decision, and then enhancing the resilience of various infrastructure by including or enhancing natural green infrastructure. So they got that in there too.
Isaac Oakeson: So there's three things that they recommend to raise our grades: Leadership and action, investment, and the code word of the day, which seems to be the buzz word everywhere, and that is resilience. Heavily used in the energy world.
Isaac Oakeson: The report goes on and I am not going talk about every single sector that's in here. I'm going to leave that up for you guys. If you go to infrastructurereportcard.org, you can definitely go check this out. Definitely highly recommend it if you're a civil engineer, or in the civil engineering world, to go check it out. It tells you what the grades of things are. And if grades are low, you can imagine that money is probably going to be spent there. So if you're considering a career in civil engineering, you could definitely look at those and, you know, make a point to shoot for those.
Isaac Oakeson: You know, the report goes on. You hit aviation, which they give a D plus, which they talk about that affects flight delays over time, which is going to affect things there. And they break it down even further for every other category, including bridges, which they're giving a C. So that's not too bad, right? Not too bad. It's gotten better. The other one is dams, and we could just keep going here. You get the idea. Dams is listed as a D, and on and on. And each one of these categories just breaks everything down, which is really nice to see. The report itself is a well-written report, it has really fun graphics to keep you glued in on the report, and it's something that you can quickly go to depending on which field you're working in and go check it out. I would highly recommend going to it. Again, it's infrastructurereportcard.org. Make sure it got that right. And you can read all about it.
Isaac Oakeson: Now, what I'm interested in, because I am in this, is energy. So energy, they're giving us a C minus. And the reason why they gave it that is because it was low, but there has been a huge investment into the upgrade of transmission lines, and other lines in the system, to try to make them more resilient. So, severe weather has been a huge factor in these lines going down. A lot of these lines have been up there for a hundred plus years. Like, they put them up back in the day and they've just left them. But more and more money is being pumped into the energy sector to make it more reliable, which is always good news because we need that electricity if we got the cars rolling on it, and we got our cell phones eating up all of our electricity, and everything else we use in our household. Anyway, an interesting one to check out.
Isaac Oakeson: So anyway, I am not going to go through every single one of these. I encourage you to each checkout the report card yourself, to go look at the category that you work in, and you'll be well on your way in understanding where the needs are in the country. But I just thought it would be fun to go through the report card, just kind of with both of us, look at some of the highlights of it, look at the overall grade of the 2021 report, and find out which categories might need some more help than others. Because like I said, civil engineering is a great industry to be in, and I highly encourage you to check it out if you haven't. I imagine most people here are civil engineers, or going to be civil engineers.
Isaac Oakeson: And if you need help on that path, go check out our resources at civilengineeringacademy.com. We can help you get your FE done. We can help you with your PE as well. And if you just want to shoot me an email, I'm always happy to talk about civil engineering and, you know, maybe you have some career advice that you need, and we're here to help you with that as well.
Isaac Oakeson: Anyway guys, I hope this was fun for you. Maybe it wasn't. I don't know. But it's a fun report card that I occasionally check out once a year. And just wanted to share that with you because I wanted to see the grade of the country, and see how we're doing as a whole. Anyway guys, I hope things are going well in your world. And we'll go ahead and wrap this up. Thanks for joining me today. I hope you had a great day. And we'll talk to you in the next one. Bye!
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