C-

Iowa 2015 Report

2015 Iowa Infrastructure Report Card

2015 Report Card GPA: C-

The 2015 Report Card for Iowa’s Infrastructure is a tool that shows all Iowans the extent, condition, and importance of the state’s infrastructure assets that support modern life. The Report Card is used to educate citizens, business leaders, and elected officials to the needs of our infrastructure and to encourage appropriate support for maintaining and improving these crucial assets.

The 2015 Report Card for Iowa’s Infrastructure contains one good B grade, seven mediocre Cs, and three poor Ds. Infrastructure provides the foundation of our state’s economic viability and supports our well-being and quality of life. It enables modern life and underpins our ability to produce and sell Iowa products in a world market. As our infrastructure continues to age, deteriorate, and lack adequate capacity, we will continue to face higher cost for goods and services with less reliability.

Report Card Summary here.

Iowa Infrastructure 2015 report card

Iowa Infrastructure Grades

Aviation
Aviation
C-

Iowa’s 108 airports support 2,514 aircraft which make about 840,000 operations per year. Eight airports support commercial air service giving more than 75% of Iowa’s citizens 30-minute access to air travel. While capacity is adequate today, substantial growth can be expected over the next 20 years. Only 61% of the state’s airports meet all service level requirements. Work remains to be done to minimize flight obstructions, with only 43% of all airports protected by land use ordinances. Estimated needs over the next 20 years total $816 million, or about $41 million per year. FAA’s NextGen and improved GPS-based navigation controls will help boost airport capacities and allow a greater number of aircraft to safely fly closer together on more direct routes in the future.

Bridges
Bridges
D+

Iowa ranks fifth in the nation in terms of the most bridges with approximately 24,000 structures: 4,115 on primary roads, 1,113 in cities and 18,688 on county roads. Bridges significantly impact Iowa’s economic competitiveness, yet one in every five in Iowa is rated structurally deficient or posted with weight restrictions, the third worst rating in the nation despite increased freight needs. While there is progress in reducing the number of structurally deficient bridges by the Iowa Department of Transportation, there are always going to more bridges to fix today and in the future at current funding levels. Every five to 10 years, an additional 500 bridges in Iowa will reach their 50th birthday. Although condition is not the only factor to bridge health, their useful life is diminished, and maintenance costs will rise. Increased funding is necessary to reduce the number of structures that fall short of modern transport needs.

Dams
Dams
D

Iowa’s 4,000 dams provide flood control, recreation, irrigation, and fire protection. The future of many dams is uncertain because of a lack of funding programs for dam owners and below average state budget for safety programs. Steps need to be made to create a funding program to assist dam owners with rehabilitation projects for the oldest of Iowa’s dams, increase the State of Iowa’s authority to require Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) for high hazard dams, and grow Iowa’s budget for dam safety programs. With only two staff available, only about 10% are able to be regularly inspected. Flood flows have been larger and more frequent in the last two decades, putting on more stresses than they were designed for and reducing the effectiveness of those specifically built for flood protection. Because of the potential for loss of life and property when a dam fails, each high risk installation should have an Emergency Action Plan in place, but only 23% of Iowa sites have one, well below the national average of 70%.

Drinking Water
Drinking Water
C+

Iowa has 1,889 public water utilities which provide clean drinking water. Each Iowan personally uses about 55 gallons per day, and another 80 gallons per person are used by business and industry. The quality and quantity of source water available in the state has historically been quite good; however, recent weather extremes, growing residential and industrial demands, and the growing challenge posed by excessive nutrients in the state’s waterways are elevating the need for increased attention from utilities and increases demand on treatment facilities. Underground drinking water infrastructure in the state is aging, and many utilities are unable to invest as heavily in the replacement of these vulnerable transmission and distribution systems as is needed. Access to readily available capital with affordable terms is essential to the future health and safety of drinking water systems in Iowa

Energy
Energy
C

Electricity is transmitted through regional grids of transmission lines, towers, and substations connecting power generating facilities to local distribution grids. The power infrastructure in Iowa is tied into the MISO network which allows Iowa utilities access to a real-time marketplace for power generated, transmitted, and distributed to and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The ability of the electric grid to generate, transmit, and distribute a reliable supply of power at a constant voltage and affordable cost is fundamental for Iowa’s continued growth and development. Iowa’s ongoing concern is with aging transmission infrastructure. Iowa’s Investor-Owned Utilities had over 1,000 miles of transmission lines greater than 50 years old in the most recent Iowa Utilities Board Report (10%). Nearly 60% of Iowa’s reported lines are 30 years old or older. Aging lines may result in lower reliability and increased operating and maintenance costs. Upgrading and expanding existing transmission and distribution infrastructure is vital to protecting grid stability and resilience. Notably, Iowa is a leader in wind generated energy production, making it an attractive location for data centers and other heavy electrical power users.

Inland Waterways
Inland Waterways
D

The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers along Iowa’s borders connect Iowa products and exports to world-wide markets. Barge transport results in fewer accidents, loss of life, and greenhouse gas emissions than other modes but has decreased recently due to reliability and performance issues. Of the 13 locks and dams along the Mississippi, 12 are 80 years old, and only one can handle modern tows in a single lockage. The lock and dam system on the Upper Mississippi River is well past its design life. The result is that unexpected repairs which hinder the use of system often force shippers to use rail and truck transport for their goods. River freight could increase from 453 to 620 million tons per year if locks could be modernized, but that will be a very challenging and capital intensive task. Without such improvements, Iowa won’t be able to take full advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal.

Levees
Levees
C-

Iowa’s estimated 890 miles of levees provide protection for urban, suburban, and agricultural lands near waterways that would otherwise be subject to frequent flooding. Iowa’s 462 miles of documented levees are functioning adequately with typical stream flows, but 57 levees are only minimally acceptable and 18 are unacceptable. Several levees in Iowa are not in compliance with FEMA and/or USACE guidelines. At present, all new levee designs are sent to the Department of Natural Resources for review prior to construction, and although this review is thorough, funding and staff are not available for follow up once these levees are constructed. The new federal Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 will streamline the inspection and funding process, provide Iowa funding to enforce levee maintenance and oversight, and reduce the time required to design and construct new levees; however, the impact of this legislation will be limited by funding received.

Rail
Rail
C

Iowa’s rail system has dropped from 10,000 miles in 1980 to 3,800 miles today. Rail’s share of freight movement has declined to about 37%, yet railroad traffic is up 217% since the 80s. Major private railroads own about 82% of the track, and the condition of the system is well maintained. However, some main lines have become so heavily used that service levels are hard to maintain and double or triple tracking may be needed. Increasing congestion on main lines, escalating costs, and continued growth may test the rail’s ability to deliver reliable service in the future. Existing and potential passenger services often languish without consensus on how to finance them. While safety trends are better overall, new concerns regarding tank car trains emerged. While farmers save about 10 cents/bushel due to the availability of the rail system, agriculture and rail need to work together to economically deliver an ever increasing grain harvest to world markets at competitive prices.

Roads
Roads
C-

A majority of Iowa’s roadways were built 50 to 60 years ago, and the design life of these streets and highways has been met or exceeded. Traffic volumes, along with freight traffic, have increased by about 123% on primary roadways over the last 30 years, and system-wide pavement conditions are deteriorating. About one in four of Iowa’s primary roadways fails to meet a rating considered minimally acceptable. However, due to safety enhancements, fatalities and major injuries on Iowa roadways have been decreasing over the last decade. Iowa’s road system is facing a total annual shortfall of $1.6 billion for all roadway needs and requires an additional $215 million annually to address the most critical needs.

Solid Waste
Solid Waste
B+`

Solid waste management provides an essential public service to the citizens of Iowa handling 2.75 million tons per year. Solid waste in Iowa is handled primarily by public facilities and includes waste collection, processing, and sanitary landfills. Approximately 42% of solid waste generated is diverted from landfills due to recycling, and 86% of all eligible containers get recycled due to Iowa’s “Bottle Bill.” Although per capita residential waste disposal has been trending downward, some challenges still lie ahead, such as population growth and managing the amount of imported waste from surrounding states. Average individual landfill capacity is estimated to be adequate until 2044, but several new techniques and technologies have the opportunity to further improve solid waste management in the state.

Wastewater
Wastewater
C-

Wastewater collection and treatment facilities preserve public health and maintain Iowa’s water environment quality. Iowa’s centralized wastewater treatment facilities serve 86% of Iowa’s population. Wastewater discharges that do not meet state and federal requirements can damage delicate ecosystems and create costly environmental consequences. While wastewater plants are regularly inspected and maintained, the collection lines are often allowed to reach the end of their service lives without being checked, leading to unexpected collapse, back-ups, and the need for emergency repairs. Urban areas are also seeing growth in sewerage collection and treatment needs. The latest EPA Clean Watersheds Needs Survey shows that $3.7 billion is necessary for Iowa’s wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years; this marks a 212% increase from needs reported in 2004. A substantial part of these needs will be to replace collection lines in coming years due to age.

A: EXCEPTIONAL, B: GOOD, C: MEDIOCRE, D: POOR, F: FAILING
Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation

Key Facts about Iowa's Infrastructure

Aviation

80 public-use airports

Bridges

4,968 (20.50%) of the 24,184 bridges are structurally deficient

Bridge Funding

$633,037,000 spent on state bridge capital projects in 2013

Dams with EAPS

23% of the state regulated dams have an Emergency Action Plan

Dams

91 high hazard dams

Drinking Water

$890 million in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years

Energy

713.6 Trillion BTU of renewable energy every year, ranking it 3rd

Hazardous Waste

12 sites on the National Priorities List

Inland Waterways

490 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 19th

Levees

659 miles of levees

Ports

8.9 million short tons of cargo in 2012, ranking it 35th nationally

Public Parks

$249.5 million of unmet needs for its parks system

Rail

3,869 miles of freight railroads across the state, ranking 11st nationally

Roads

114,442 miles of Public Roads, with 18% in poor condition

Road Costs

$499 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair

Schools

$499 million gap in in estimated school capital expenditures

Transit

28,583,499 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains

Wastewater

$2.48 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years

Key Solutions

Our nation’s infrastructure problems are solvable if we have leadership and commit to making good ideas a reality. Raising the grades on our infrastructure will require that we seek and adopt a wide range of solutions.
Investment

We can no longer afford to defer investment in our nation’s critical infrastructure systems.

Leadership & Planning

Smart investment will only be possible with leadership, planning, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.

Preparing for the Future

We have to utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure is more resilient.

Latest News

bridge

2015 Infrastructure Year in Review

App Makes Contacting Legislators a Breeze The Save America’s Infrastructure phone app launched in May and has been downloaded by more than 1,800+ infrastructure advocates....

Sign Up For Email Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Download the Full 2017 Infrastructure Report Card
Prev State Indiana Next State Kansas C-