Story at a glance

  • The American Society of Civil Engineers rated U.S. infrastructure a “C minus,” an improvement from the last grade.
  • Increases in funding are key to building more resilient and reliable highways and power centers.

Infrastructure in the U.S. received a lackluster grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), giving the country’s roads and bridges a cumulative “C minus” in its 2021 infrastructure report card.

The report card, published every four years, takes inventory of multiple American infrastructure systems, including waterways, airports and highways. While the “C minus” is not ideal, it is an increase from the “D” range that the U.S. has lingered in for the past 20 years.

The group took into account 17 different infrastructure arenas, each with grades ranging from a high “B” to “D minus.”

“For the first time in 20 years, our infrastructure GPA is a C-, up from a D+ in 2017,” the executive summary reads. “This is good news and an indication we’re headed in the right direction, but a lot of work remains.”

Some of the challenges highlighted include the negative effects the COVID-19 pandemic stands to have on infrastructure investment. The ASCE suggests that roughly $2.59 trillion will be needed in government funding over the next 10 years to address gaps in investment.

Continued underinvestment in infrastructure will ultimately cost the U.S. $10 trillion in GDP, more than 3 million jobs and $2.4 trillion in exports by 2039. 

This is poised to cost the average American household $3,300 per year.

Failing to upgrade and improve infrastructure investments prevents the U.S. from withstanding disasters and accidents. This was most notably seen with the mass power failures in Texas, stemming from ill-equipped power centers, which prompted high demands in energy that strained resources and drove prices up.

“When we fail to invest in our infrastructure, we pay the price,” ASCE experts write. “Poor roads and airports mean travel times increase. An aging electric grid and inadequate water distribution make utilities unreliable. Problems like these translate into higher costs for businesses to manufacture and distribute goods and provide services.”

Railway systems in the U.S. received the highest grade at a “B,” despite still recording $45.2 billion in repair backlogs on passenger rails. 

Public transit received a notably low grade, “D minus,” thanks to roughly 45 percent of U.S. residents having limited access to public transportation systems. Existing transit vehicle demand repairs and upgrades, contributing to the $176 billion in backlog.

The report calls for strong congressional action as well as the continued support from various local governments to increase their investments in improving infrastructure systems, specifically to 3.5 percent of U.S. GDP from 2.5 percent by 2025.

ASCE officials also note that partnerships between the public and private sectors will accelerate funding opportunities and encourage better resilience of U.S. infrastructure by adhering to industry codes and standards. 

U.S. infrastructure could receive this overhaul, with President Biden gunning to pass a critical infrastructure bill that could provide new jobs and improve transportation and energy operations. 

Green infrastructure has been a pillar in Biden’s campaign, with goals to make federal investments in carbon-free power sectors and housing developments. 

Published on Mar 03, 2021