The grades are in: U.S. roads get a D+

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While the nation’s roads continue to decline, improvements in rail and some other categories raised the nation’s overall infrastructure grade to C-, a very modest improvement from the D+ grade in the 2017 report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

Andy Herrmann, a professional engineer, past president of ASCE and a member of the report card committee since 2001, says he is optimistic that Congress can agree on an infrastructure package.

He echoed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who told the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) last week, "I'm looking forward to a day when infrastructure week is no longer a groundhog's day joke but something that delivers investments to the American People."

In 11 of the report card's 17 categories, the grade was in the ‘D’ range: aviation, dams, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, public parks, roads, schools, stormwater, transit, and wastewater.

The study concluded that, overall, the long-term investment gap continues to grow as we lose value in our infrastructure. That gap grew from $2.1 trillion over 10 years in the last report to $2.6 trillion, meaning the need now is $259 billion per year.

In terms of funding solutions, Herrmann explained why he thinks a shift away from the fuel tax and to vehicle miles traveled (VMT) makes the most sense. In his remarks to AASHTO, Secretary Buttigieg suggested a usage levy is necessary.

A Tax Foundation report in August 2020 thoroughly explores the VMT option, observing that only three states raise enough dedicated transportation revenue to fund transportation spending.

The last Michigan-specific report card, in 2018, assigned a D- grade to roads and gave the state a D overall for infrastructure. That report concluded, simply, that "Michigan's infrastructure is old and outdated. We're now faced with pothole-ridden roads, bridges propped with temporary supports, sinkholes destroying homes, and closed beaches." The report highlighted Michigan's 21st Century Infrastructure Commission conclusion that an additional $4 billion annually is needed to maintain our infrastructure.

"Michigan must support innovative policies leading to cleaner water, smoother highways, and a safe environment that will attract business and improve our quality of life," the report said.
View a nationwide map of Dedicated Transportation Tax Revenue, fiscal year 2017.

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