The 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure, released today, gives infrastructure in 10 northeast Minnesota counties and six northwest Wisconsin counties an overall grade of a “C.” The report finds that while the region’s infrastructure is currently slightly better than the national average, backsliding will occur in the next five to 10 years if infrastructure funding issues do not continue to be pushed to the forefront. Seven categories of infrastructure were graded in the 2018 Report Card. Aviation and bridges each earned a “B-”, ports, solid waste and wastewater each took home “C+,” roads received a “D+” and Drinking Water a “D.”
The report applauds recent infrastructure-related action in the region. Some success stories include new airport terminals and runways, the Highway 53 relocation project, the Port of Duluth Intermodal Project, the Greater Minnesota Transportation Sales Tax, and many others. However, the Report Card Committee, comprised of over 20 civil engineers and industry professionals, caution that if the region assumes the job is complete based on these success stories, the Twin Ports Area will not be able to meet future infrastructure challenges.
Civil engineers in northwest Wisconsin and northeast Minnesota report that road conditions in the City of Duluth are in poor condition, but the city’s request to the state legislature for a 0.5% dedicated sales tax for streets offers an attempt to close the funding gap. The 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure also find that in the City of Duluth, between 30% and 40% of the 400 miles of wastewater pipes are between 60 and 100 years and needs to be replaced. Additionally, ASCE civil engineers highlight the fact that while capacity in the ports are sufficient, the ability of each facility to secure funding to improve condition is highly dependent on which state the dock is located in.
In addition to assessing the health of Duluth and the surrounding region’s infrastructure, the 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure makes recommendations to raise the grades. These include a directive to lawmakers to reinvest in infrastructure to prepare the region for the future, specifically with regards to encouraging the Minnesota legislature to support the City of Duluth’s infrastructure sales tax initiative and expanding the Minnesota Port Development Assistance Program to include grant access to private dock owners. Additionally, ASCE Duluth Section civil engineers recommend to fellow citizens that they show up to town halls, legislative days, and other civic-minded events and advocate for prioritizing infrastructure.
The 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers of the state to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their community. By using school report card letter grades, civil engineers used their expertise to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis.
ASCE State Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of ‘D+’ in 2017. To read the full report and learn more about the Twin Ports Region’s solutions to raise the grade, click here.