US Infrastructure Is Improving

The American Society of Civil Engineers releases a report every four years that grades the quality of America’s infrastructure. Every single report for the past 15 years has shown a decline or stagnation in quality – until this year.

The last report was issued in 2009 and gave our domestic infrastructure a “D” grade. This year, it has been bumped up to a “D+.” The report shows progress in six areas which include bridges, rail, waste water and drinking water. Ports, waterways and levees have retained their position at the bottom of the list with a “D-.” Our highest grade comes in at a “B-” for our treatment of solid waste. Clearly the push for better development and repairs cannot stop, but to halt the downward spiral of quality is a serious step in the right direction.

Experts have contributed the small increase to more funding from private interests and local governments who have become tired of waiting for the federal government to subsidize these desperately needed upgrades in their infrastructure.

Matt Lehrich, a spokesman for the Obama administration, said to the New York Times, “This report confirms what we already know: that while smart investments in infrastructure have not only created jobs but started to produce the improvements American workers and businesses will need to compete in a global economy, we have a very long way to go.”

The Lehigh Valley is no different.  Our infrastructure is aging and decaying.  Efforts have been made across the Lehigh Valley, slowly addressing these concerns.  Some infrastructure needs, such as water and wastewater systems, could benefit from regionalization efforts, something RenewLV discovered in a 2008 study.

The ASCE also breaks down the data and needs by state, below are their findings on Pennsylvania:

Water and Environment


  • Pennsylvania’s dam safety program has 28 Full-Time Employees that each oversee an average of 118.8 state regulated dams.
  • Pennsylvania has 852 high hazard dams.
  • 96% of the state regulated dams in Pennsylvania have an Emergency Action Plan.
  • Pennsylvania’s state dam safety program has an annual budget of $2,502,295.

Drinking Water

  • Pennsylvania has reported $11.4 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.

Hazardous Waste

  • Pennsylvania has 96 sites on the National Priorities List.


  • Pennsylvania has approximately 199 miles of levees according to the current FEMA Midterm Levee Inventory.


  • Pennsylvania has reported $17.9 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.



  • There are 132 public-use airports in Pennsylvania.


  • 5,540 of the 22,669 bridges in Pennsylvania (24.4%) are considered structurally deficient.
  • 4,370 of the 22,669 bridges in Pennsylvania (19.3%) are considered functionally obsolete.
  • Pennsylvania received $429.3 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund in FY2011.

Inland Waterways

  • Pennsylvania has 260 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 28th in the nation.


  • Pennsylvania’s ports handled 90.8 million short tons of cargo in 2009, ranking it 8th in the nation.


  • Pennsylvania has 55 freight railroads covering 5,071 miles across the state, ranking it 5th by mileage.


  • Driving on roads in need of repair costs Pennsylvania motorists $2.947 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $341 per motorist.
  • 57% of Pennsylvania’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition.
  • Pennsylvania has 121,772 public road miles.
  • Pennsylvania’s highway vehicle-miles traveled in 2009 was approximately 7,889 per capita, ranking it 45th in the nation.
  • Pennsylvania’s gas tax of 32.3 cents per gallon has not been increased in 6 years.


  • Pennsylvania has 450,252 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems – motor bus, heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail.

Public Facilities

Parks and Recreation

  • Pennsylvania has reported an unmet need of $24.5 million for its parks system.


  • Public school districts in Pennsylvania spent a total of $8 billion on capital outlays for school construction and acquisition of land and existing structures in fiscal years 2005–2008.
  • It is estimated that Pennsylvania schools have $9.3 billion in infrastructure funding needs.


  • Pennsylvania produces 6.577 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy every year, ranking it 17th.

Posted on March 19, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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