Back in the day, I never really cared about establishing a high grade point average (GPA). Maybe because it told me how far I was from being “excellent” by telling me I was only “good” and at times that I was only “average” with a lot of work to do to be “good.” But then I became a father, and as I watched my children establish GPAs of their own, I encouraged them to do their best. I taught them that their grades were good indicators of how much they’ve learned and accomplished.
Recently, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2019 Infrastructure Report Card for Washington State. Its overall GPA is a “C” for the nine categories of infrastructure. According to a press release from the ASCE, civil engineers in Washington looked at the state’s aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater.
A “C” average doesn’t immediately sound like it’s something to brag about. But as is the case with infrastructure, a closer look is necessary.
Population in Washington State continues to increase—with Seattle surging as the fastest-growing city in the country since 2010. Seattle continues to also lead the nation in transit ridership growth, which increased by 4.7% percent from 2015 to 2016. A record 122.2 million riders used transit in 2017. And here’s some good news…bridges (C+), roads (C-), schools (C+) and transit (C-) all had grade increases since 2013, indicating the State is preparing for its future.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has prioritized preventative maintenance activities and tackled several large-scale transportation projects in the Seattle region in the past five years. How did they accomplish this? Funding.
One reason Washington bridges are seeing improvement is because of a 2016 11.9-cent gas tax increase, which provided funding to address the most critical needs for bridges and removed weight restrictions on many structurally deficient bridges. Additionally, the State’s roadways are improving with 92% of WSDOT’s pavements in fair and better condition, which exceeds the state’s goal of 90%.
There were some setbacks. Dams, which has the highest grade in the report of a “B-” decreased slightly from a “B” in 2013. The average life expectancy of a dam is about 50 years and over 40% of Washington’s dams are at or beyond that age. The State’s dams are aging and have had consistent funding challenges for the past four years.
Two added categories were stormwater, which is runoff that originates from precipitation events and received a “D+,” and wastewater, which received a “C-.” Much of the State’s stormwater infrastructure is beyond its design life and in need of repair or replacement.
Washington State’s “C” average is a bit better than the nation’s GPA, but both are still in desperate need of permanent infrastructure funding.
ASCE State Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of “D+” in 2017.
You can see the 2019 Washington Infrastructure Report Card here.
And if you want to refresh your memory on the United States 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, click here.