The 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure is an independent review of the current state of infrastructure needs, capability and funding in D.C. by the National Capital Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Report Card was written over the past year by ASCE members from the D.C. region who assigned the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. The report grades the infrastructure assets and is not a reflection of the agencies and professionals who work every day to solve infrastructure issues. It is a tool that shows the condition and importance of D.C.’s vital infrastructure assets that support our daily life or can interrupt our lives if we don’t maintain them. To put it another way, if you drive or ride in D.C., if you drink the water or flush a toilet in D.C., or if you just want infrastructure that works – this Report Card is for you.
In the 2016 Report Card for D.C.’s Infrastructure, ASCE assessed 11 categories of infrastructure and found that 3 of them earned poor D grades, 6 earned mediocre C grades, and 2 earned B grades.
Levees earned the lowest grade in the Report Card at a D-. Levees protect the capitol area from flooding as well as the Anacostia Bolling base, and both have earned “Unacceptable” ratings creating a need for emergency repairs and an additional $5 million would be needed to finish the work to protect the capitol area.
Transit received a D grade due primarily to the condition of Metro system and the safety implications of a lack of consistent funding and focus on maintenance. While bright spots exist with new Metrobuses, Circulator bus success, and an innovative Capital Bikeshare, with 85% of D.C.’s commuters using Metro, it should be clear that this should be a priority not only in D.C. but also for each stakeholder in this system.
While we know D.C. Roads are congested, the D+ grade for roads is in large part due to DDOT needing 4 times its current maintenance budget. For every dollar of need, there’s only a quarter to spend.
School facilities earned a grade of C- with more than 49 schools reporting at least one “poor” condition structural element, impacting more than 14,000 students. However, almost half of D.C. schools have been modernized which show a tremendous leap in the right direction and a clear investment in D.C.’s future.
Energy earned a C with $3 billion needed for electricity upgrades and $650 million need to replace 50-year old natural gas pipelines.
Both water and wastewater were given grades of C+. With pipes’ median age being about 79 years old, we shouldn’t be surprised that there are 400 to 550 pipe breaks each year, but we’re starting to replace 1% per year and renew the clean drinking water infrastructure residents use. Wastewater work is happening right now to expand the capacity of our system that will not only prevent neighborhood flooding but improve the quality of the Anacostia River.
Solid Waste earned a grade of C+. Our city’s growth is requiring an increase of trucks to take away our waste. While 10% more of it is recycled than a decade ago, we still need to make progress to reach the long-term goal of 45%.
We have more Parks per person in D.C. than almost any place in the U.S. yet 50% of D.C.’s open spaces have challenges leading to a C+ grade.
Rail received a B- grade due to the significant private investment of CSX in their rail infrastructure and the Virginia Avenue Rail Tunnel allowing 400,000 freight carloads to pass through D.C. While more capacity is need for rail and passengers, future plans being set today could serve D.C.’s needs and improve our congestion.
Finally, D.C. Bridges received a B-, one of the highest grades, showing tremendous progress in reducing the structurally deficient bridges from 8% to 3% in just 3 years. The future will require consistent maintenance of older bridges reaching the end of their lifespan, but improvements like this show that diligent management, maintenance, and investment together create the changes we need to see.
The Report Card shows us the condition and needs in a letter grade, but what is very clear when you read this report is that innovative solutions to our challenges, like DC Water’s Clean Rivers Project, are going to shape D.C.’s future if we let them. Yes, we have infrastructure challenges, but there are solutions to each of them and some are already on the way and some we need to support to make reality. We’re also going to need to get back to the basics – maintenance needs to be as essential to our budgets as water for hot coffee in the morning. With innovation and maintenance, we can prepare for the future and modernize the infrastructure that will serve us and future generations.