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U.S. Infrastructure: Pass or Fail?

Monica Mosure

March 20, 2013

Infrastructure is a big deal. Think about it. Everyone in the country relies on it 24/7. From the power lines that provide our homes and places of work with energy, to the water treatment systems and pipes that give us easy and reliable access to safe drinking water. Imagine what your daily life would be like if you woke up one morning and found out that even one of America’s infrastructure systems ceased to be operational.


Unfortunately, we may not be far off from that imaginary situation becoming a reality.


Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers compiles a “Report Card” outlining the state of America’s infrastructure, including roads, dams, bridges, drinking water systems, ports, mass transit, and energy systems. In 2009, U.S. infrastructure received a D, a barely passing grade. Although this year’s average grade did improve—we moved up to a D+—it is frustrating to see that America's infrastructure is still in need of repair.


Grades for specific systems ranged from a B- for solid waste to D- for inland waterway and levees.  Other grades included:

Water & Environment

  • Dams – D
  • Drinking Water – D
  • Hazardous Waste – D
  • Levees – D-
  • Solid Waste – B-


  • Aviation – D
  • Bridges – C+
  • Inland Waterways – D-
  • Ports – C
  • Rail – C+
  • Roads – D
  • Transit – D

Public Facilities & Energy

  • Public Parks & Recreation – C-
  • Schools – D


  • Energy – D+

Improvements & the Future

There is, however, a silver lining. Compared with 2009’s grade card, our overall infrastructure grade has improved, meaning that when given the attention it deserves, we are able to improve our infrastructure situation. We have MORE THAN DOUBLED our recycling rate from 1980 to 2013, and per capita generation of solid waste is either steady or showing signs of decline. Our roadway improvements have corrected poor conditions and significantly reduced highway fatalities. And lastly, we have shown an increased focus on repairing and replacing pipes for wastewater and stormwater infrastructure needs.


American still has a lot of work to do.  Air travel continues to increase in commercial flight numbers, but congestion and delays have also increased, estimated to have cost nearly $22 billion in 2012. Levees, which received a D- grade, protect a growing number of communities, but without a countrywide standard for levee safety, it is hard to estimate their reliability. In addition, the EPA estimates that 1 in 4 Americans lives within three miles of a hazardous waste site, a clear indication that there is much more hazardous waste cleanup needed.


Because infrastructure is such an important part of our daily lives and its quality affects the strength of our nation, please take the time to review ASCE’s full 2013 Report Card. Let’s work together and make our 2017 report card one we are proud to bring home and hang on the fridge.