I got a survey at work recently from an engineer with the American Society of Civil Engineers collecting data for the latest Infrastructure Report Card.  You can find more information about the report card at www.asce.org/reportcard/2005/index.cfm

In the 2005 report card, both drinking water and wastewater received a D-.  America’s overall infrastructure grade was a D.  That includes not only water and sewer, but roads, bridges, dams, navigable waterways, schools, aviation, rail, energy, solid waste, hazardous waste, parks, and security.  All items critical to our way of life, and taken for granted until the worst happens, like the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis.  Or the steam-pipe explosion in New York.

I’m hoping the latest report card will show improvement–but really, I’ll be surprised if it does. 

Federal and state grant monies are almost nonexistent, which leaves cities to pick up the cost of infrastructure repairs.  In the water and wastewater world  that means raising rates–and nobody likes that.  Not even me, and I know how important it is to keep pumps running and replace old water lines. 

Unfortunately, infrastructure is expensive.  And fixing old or broken infrastructure is even more costly than putting in new stuff.  Construction costs continue to soar.  And the public is getting tired of having their bills get higher every day.  So the chance of bringing our D- up to even a C is remote.

The fallen I-35W bridge is truly a tragedy that could have been avoided.  The only good thing to come out of such a sad event is that it shows how very important it is to take care of our critical infrastructure.