Alaska civil engineers give the state’s infrastructure a “C-” grade

The Alaska Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released preliminary findings from the 2021 Report Card for Alaska’s Infrastructure, with the full report slated to be released in the coming weeks.

Alaska civil engineers gave 12 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘C-’ meaning the state’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition and requires attention. Alaska has consistently maintained its transportation infrastructure, solid waste and energy sectors despite omnipresent environmental threats, seismic events, permafrost and shore erosion. However, some sectors such as drinking water, wastewater, and Alaska’s marine highways have fallen behind due to a lack of funding to keep up with current and future needs. Civil engineers graded aviation (C), bridges (B-), dams (C), drinking water (D), energy (C-), marine highways (D), ports and harbors (D+), rail (C), roads (C), solid waste (C), transit (B-) and wastewater (D).

“Our systems and state agencies have demonstrated commendable resilience in the face of seismic events and other natural disasters,” said David Gamez, co-chair, 2021 Report Card for Alaska’s Infrastructure. “Unfortunately, we face many other threats, ranging from shore erosion to permafrost, major temperature fluctuations and avalanches. We must keep our foot on the gas to address current and future challenges to prevent power outages, road closures, suspended drinking water services, and many more vital services.”

Alaska’s drinking water, wastewater, and marine highways each received a ‘D’ grade, the lowest in the report, due to insufficient funding mechanisms. The state’s drinking water sector faces an estimated $1 billion funding need over the next 20 years, with an average of more than $80 million (M) per year is needed over the next decade, while only about 10% of that total is available through existing programs.

Residents in 32 rural communities do not have in-home piped water or a community watering point and must haul water. Even residents in mid-size cities struggle with drinking water and sanitation services. In Bethel, a regional economic and administrative hub, 68% of residents lack piped water and sewer service, relying instead on truck-hauled service. Urban communities in Alaska have wastewater systems similar to those in cities across the US, funded primarily by user fees and/or local taxes and periodically receive state and federal funding; however, rural communities vary between centralized sewer to no service at all. In 2019, Alaska ranked last among all 50 states for the percentage of its citizens receiving complete sanitation, which includes a flush toilet, shower or bath, and a kitchen sink.

The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card-style letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Alaska’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure an overall grade of ‘C-’ in 2021.  

To view the report card and all 12 categories, visit

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