March 19, 2013 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

The new ASCE 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure is now available at and as a tablet and phone app on the iTunes and Google Play stores.

Every four years, ASCE issues the Report Card which evaluates conditions and investment needs for major sectors of infrastructure -- including roads, bridges, drinking water systems, ports, mass transit, and the electric grid. This year's Report Card covers 16 infrastructure categories, and it's being released as a digital application (or "app") that includes videos, interactive maps, and other multimedia tools. For the first time, the 2013 Report Card provides information for all 50 states, including examples of initiatives and innovations that are making a difference. For example, Oklahoma created a plan to replace or rehabilitate over 950 structurally deficient bridges between 2013 and 2020. Philadelphia implemented a program to improve resiliency and address combined sewer overflows using green infrastructure, capable of capturing water from all but the most severe storms.

Be the first to get the new Report Card at, and just as importantly, share the grades in your social and professional networks via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter!  We hope everyone will be able to use this great product to get even more people involved in the conversation around our nation’s infrastructure.

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4 Responses

  1. Alice Friedemann says:

    Why should we repair ANYTHING if the concrete is going to fall apart?

    A Century from Now Concrete Will be Nothing But Rubble

    Concrete is an essential part of our infrastructure.

    And it’s all falling apart, as Robert Courland’s 2011 book Concrete Planet makes clear.
    The Romans built concrete structures that lasted over 2 thousand years. Ours will last a century — at most.

    Courland writes that our infrastructure may last less than a century. Despite this, builders, architects, and engineers who know the shortcomings of steel and concrete continue to build structures that will deteriorate.

    The problem isn’t the just the concrete; it’s the iron and steel rebar reinforcement inside. Cracks can be fixed, but when air, moisture, and chemicals seep into reinforced concrete, the rebar rusts, expanding in diameter four or five-fold, which destroys the surrounding concrete, and ultimately destroys the nuclear reactor and waste containment structures; coal and natural gas power plants, buildings, homes, and skyscrapers; roads, bridges, dams, levees, water mains, barges, airport runways, sewage and water treatment plants and pipes, schools, subways, church, canals, corn and grain silos, shipping wharves and piers, tunnels, parking garages and lots, sidewalks, shopping malls, swimming poosl, and anything else made of concrete.

    Courland says that engineers and architects have known about this problem a long time, yet either refuse to admit it or don’t think it matters. The main theme of this book is that it does matter, as Courland explains in these three excerpts:

    1) The lifespan of concrete is not only shorter than masonry, it “is probably less than that of wood…We have built a disposable world using a short-lived material, the manufacture of which generates millions of tons of greenhouse gases.”

    2) “Even more troubling is that all this steel-reinforced concrete that we use for building our roads, buildings, bridges, sewer pipes, and sidewalks is ultimately expendable, so we will have to keep rebuilding them every couple of generations, adding more pollution and expense for our descendants to bear. Most of the concrete structures built at the beginning of the 20th century have begun falling apart, and most will be, or already have been, demolished”.

    3) The world we have built over the last century is decaying at an alarming rate. Our infrastructure is especially terrible:
    — 1 in 4 bridges are either structurally deficient or structurally obsolete
    –The service life of most reinforced concrete highway bridges is 50 years, and their average age is 42 years….
    — Besides our crumbling highway system, the reinforced concrete used for our water conduits, sewer pipes, water-treatment plants, and pumping stations is also disintegrating. The chemicals and bacteria in sewage make it almost as corrosive as seawater, reducing the life span of the reinforced concrete used in these systems to 50 years of less.”

    I’m sure the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) would agree. Below is their 2009 report card for America’s infrastructure (all of these use at least some, if not a lot, of concrete).

    C+ Solid Waste
    C Bridges
    C- Public Parks and Recreation, Rail
    D+ Energy
    D Aviation, Dams, Hazardous Waste, Schools, Transit
    D- Drinking Water, Inland Waterways, Levees, Roads, Wastewater

    We know there’s a problem, we know how to fix it (the last chapter explains how to make long-lasting concrete), and yet there’s no pressure to do it, because it’s cheaper to do it the wrong way, especially in a time of tight credit. To do it right, it costs a bit more up front, but the payback is tens of trillions of dollars in saved future costs. I predict Capitalism’s’ short-term focus will prevent long-lasting concrete projects from coming to fruition.

    On top of that, there’s no demand from the public, journalists, engineers, or architects. There has not been any outcry since this book was published to build with long-lasting concrete in the future that I can find, though before the book was published, the National Institute of Standards & Technology Engineering Laboratory funded research to prevent concrete from cracking in a program called REACT: Reducing Early-Age Cracking Today. In 2007, the National Infrastructure Improvement Act, to establish a National Commission on the Infrastructure of the United States, passed in the Senate but failed in the House.
    Peak Energy and Concrete

    Look out your window — all the homes and buildings you see are built on concrete foundations. The roads, streets, the bridges are nothing but an illusion.

    I can’t get some of some of the verses from the Talking Heads Nothing But Flowers out of my head:

    There was a factory
    Now there are mountains and rivers
    There was a shopping mall
    Now it’s all covered with flowers
    The highways and cars
    Were sacrificed for agriculture
    Once there were parking lots
    Now it’s a peaceful oasis
    This was a Pizza Hut
    Now it’s all covered with daisies
    And as things fell apart
    Nobody paid much attention

    We are at Peak oil now (according to Science, Nature, and the IEA we’ve been on a plateau of oil production since 2005-6), so why waste our remaining energy to make concrete? At this point it seems crazy to build projects with short-term concrete we KNOW will only last for decades. Once we stop repairing our concrete (and cement) structures, they will quickly fall apart.

    Why try to rebuild our infrastructure and create vastly more greenhouse gases? Cement is the third largest source of CO2 after autos and coal-fueled power plants. Large amounts of energy are required to produce cement, around 450 grams of coal per 900 grams of cement produced, according to the World Coal Association.

    Our descendants won’t be driving much. They’ll probably wish we had converted most of the roads to farmland, which will take centuries even after the cement is gone for the soil to recover — why not start now? Stop maintaining roads in the national forests, rural areas, and wherever else it makes sense –let them return to gravel, jackhammer and remove the rubble while we still have the energy to do so.

    De-paving and de-damming would also restore streams, fisheries, wetlands, and ecosystems for future generations.

    Future generations eventually won’t have the energy to maintain, repair, or rebuild very many concrete structures in a wood energy based civilization. Courland says it takes one cord (4 x 4 x 8 feet) of wood to make 1 cubic yard of lime.

    Those of you downstream from large dams might be interested to know that Courland says they are still “undergoing the curing process, thus forestalling corrosion. It will be interesting for our descendants to discover whether the tremendous weight of these dams will continue to put off the rebar’s corrosion expansion”.

    Failing dams are a double tragedy, since electricity from hydro-power will be especially valuable as one of the few (reliable) energy sources in the future.

    James Howard Kunstler writes that surburbia will be seen as one of the greatest wastes of energy and resources in the future. It goes way beyond that. Our infrastructure is one-third and one-half concrete. It’s all a waste.

    A wasteland. There will be absurd amounts of concrete rubble — what the hell are people in the future going to do with 300 billion tons of concrete? Build sheep fences?

  2. Marie Ashpole says:

    A very interesting report. Congratulations ASCE!

  3. Dominic Geraghty says:

    See for a discussion and industry commentary on the state of electricity infrastructure, especially with respect to the “Smart Grid”.

    There has already been an enormous investment in automated metering infrastructure (AMI) by electric utilities. Like all infrastructure investments, the pay-off is long-term. This AMI communications and control infrastructure “enables” Smart Grid 2.0 applications which can deliver substantial economic, reliability, and societal benefits. But the delivery of the promised benefits of AMI has not met expectations to date for a number of fairly well-understood reasons, presented in some detail at

    A case can be made that making the grid “smarter” can increase the utilization factor of existing power generation, transmission, and distribution capital assets (i.e., infrastructure), thus decreasing, or at least deferring, some of the future capital investment requirements of the power sector. These “Smart Grid 2.0” value-added applications enabled by AMI infrastructure have the potential to improve service reliability too.

  4. Michael McGinley P.E. says:

    I wonder what the report actually says. I cannot get it to open. It would be helpful to the older, more technology challenged members to post a simple pdf file attachment that is easy to open and save. Too many IT links leave me in the dust.