The 2014 Report Card for Illinois’ Infrastructure was released today by the Illinois Sections of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at the Illinois Statehouse.
A panel of professional civil engineers throughout the state graded each infrastructure category according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation.. In 2010, the infrastructure grade for Illinois was a D+, reflecting delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories. In the 2014 Report Card for Illinois’ Infrastructure, the state’s infrastructure G.P.A. jumped to a C- showing the progress made with leadership and solid infrastructure programs.
Over the past four years since the 2010 Report Card for Illinois’ Infrastructure, leaders at the state level and in Illinois’ cities—large and small—have started to make some steps to rebuild their aging infrastructure. Programs such as CREATE have started unclogging rail and traffic bottlenecks and the Illinois Jobs Now! effort by the state provided $31B to start fixing Illinois’ biggest infrastructure problems. These efforts have paid off and both the Rail and Drinking Water grades have gone up since the last Report Card. Plans like Chicago’s commitment to replace and repair aging water pipes shows how “thinking big” can create even bigger results.
But while some of the grades have gone up, Illinois’ infrastructure isn’t a B student yet. Aging infrastructure and delayed maintenance have taken their toll. Illinois’s average bridge is 40 years old which is close to retirement age for a bridge, Chicago has been replacing water pipes put in when Ulysses Grant was President, and more and more people and goods spend time stuck in traffic on Illinois’ roads and rails.
Let’s Raise the Grades
Illinois’s infrastructure touches almost every aspect of citizens’ daily life—from your neighborhood roads, to your phone, to the community school, to the new south suburban airport. In 2014, we need to be visionary but realistic about our infrastructure. We need to continue replace our oldest infrastructure but also begin to think of our infrastructure as an entire system in need of sustainable funding. We have to make collaborative and smart decisions, while assuring that safety remains our top priority.
We can continue to tackle Illinois’ infrastructure needs by asking our leaders to take on these 3 Key Solutions that would help and raise Illinois’s grades:
1. State and local governments should work together to create smart, efficient transportation systems that meet the changing needs of Illinois’s communities. We cannot just repair the investments of the past, but we need to build systems for a 21st century Illinois.
2. Create sustainable funding to maintain all new and planned investments in Illinois’s water systems. Simply replacing old pipes with limited or no plans for operation and maintenance will only lead to similar problems for future generations.
3. Invest in networks that will lessen the costs of doing business in Illinois, including inland waterways, rail, and airports. As the economy continues to expand, Illinois needs world-class infrastructure to compete with other states for new businesses and manufacturing.
Read the full 2014 Report Card for Illinois’ Infrastructure here.