Civil Engineers Give West Virginia a “D” and Maine a “C-“ in the 2020 Infrastructure Report Card

By Brianna Rodriguez, Digital Editor

The American Society for Civil Engineers released the 2020 Infrastructure Report Card for West Virginia and Maine with overall mediocre ratings.

West Virginia civil engineers gave five categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘D,’ meaning the state’s infrastructure is in poor condition, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. Civil engineers graded bridges (D+), dams (D), drinking water (D), roads (D+) and wastewater (D). 

The funding gap for surface transportation systems is deep, but lawmakers have taken recent action to correct the issue.

In 2017, West Virginia approved the Roads to Prosperity Program, which invests $2.8 billion in capital projects over a four-year period. The program is set to fund more than 700 projects that will provide new roads and bridges while simultaneously fixing existing ones, thus creating over 48,000 jobs.

Additionally, the state also increased its motor fuels tax to 35.7 cents per gallon, which is 17.3 cents higher than the national fuel tax (18.4 cents per gallon). West Virginia also receives federal funds from the Highway Trust Fund, which allocated $460 million to the state in 2018. 

While these recent funding measures should improve conditions in the future, the report indicates that current conditions of the state’s infrastructure systems are not adequate for the needs of West Virginians.

This remains evident, for the time being, for the state’s surface transportation network (bridges and roads). Of West Virginia’s 7,291 bridges (D+), 21% are rated as structurally deficient, the second highest rate in the nation and far above the national average of 7%. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Bridge Report, replacing, widening, strengthening and repairing efforts for West Virginia’s bridge network will cost an estimated $2.9 billion.

"As an engineer and someone who has spent his entire career around the construction industry, I recognize how vital it is to invest in America’s infrastructure,” said David McKinley, U.S. representative of West Virginia in a release. “Rebuilding our roads, bridges, and water lines will help revitalize our economy and put people back to work. Both at a federal and state level, we have an obligation to prioritize our infrastructure.”

Maine civil engineers gave 16 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘C-,’ meaning the state’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition. Civil engineers graded aviation (B), bridges (C-), dams (D+), drinking water (C), energy (C+), hazardous waste (D+), levees (C-), parks (C), ports (B-), rail (C+), roads (D), schools (C), solid waste (C-), stormwater (C-), transit (D+) and wastewater (D+). 

The report highlights some positive trends due to increased funding in the past several years, but not enough to make the grade go up since 2016, which was also a ‘C-.’ Maine’s surface transportation network — which includes bridges (C-), roads (D) and transit (D+) — has lacked the funding mechanisms necessary to make substantial improvements.

Maine has the highest fatality rate on its roadways of all New England states at 1.04 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. According to MaineDOT’s Three-Year Work Plan, the projected annual funding gap for roads and bridges is $233 million, and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 60% of Maine’s bridges are over 50 years old, surpassing their useful design life, and 13% of the state’s 3,754 bridges are deemed structurally deficient.

Most road conditions are in fairly good shape, but 8% of Maine’s highest priority roads have poor or unacceptable ratings in condition and safety and this number is expected to climb due to the annual funding gap.

Improvements in Maine’s multimodal freight transportation network, including the state’s aviation (B), ports (B-) and railroad (C+) infrastructure, has provided greater economic opportunities and efficiencies across the state. Aviation infrastructure received the highest grade of a ‘B,’ citing $121 million in Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding since 2016 and an additional $731 million in Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) revenue in the state’s four commercial airports. However, the nationwide $4.50 per segment cap on the PFC, in place since 2000, limits how much airports can invest in their own facilities to prepare for future growth.  

“Investments in our airports, marine terminals, and freight network are a perfect examples of how prioritizing infrastructure can lead to increased business opportunities and expanded connectivity within our state and throughout New England,” said Dan Bouchard, P.E., ASCE Maine section president in a release. “Our needs will only grow after the impacts of COVID-19 are fully realized, so it is imperative that we prioritize investment in all infrastructure sectors to ensure Mainers’ needs are met.”  

The Report Card also includes recommendations to raise the grades. For example, asset management has proven to be a valuable tool for analyzing conditions and prioritizing capital improvements and rehabilitation for several sectors, but many infrastructure agencies in the state have not yet implemented the practice, leaving their networks vulnerable to a pattern of reactionary and oftentimes expensive updates and repairs.

The report recommended that asset management data and strategic long-term planning should be implemented across all infrastructure portfolios. In addition, agency and utility leaders from all sectors need to create consistent, dedicated funding from a variety of sources; investments should be made based on research and development to promote innovation. 

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