America’s Infrastructure Scorecard: Mediocre Isn’t Good Enough

America’s Infrastructure Barely Makes the Grade

ASCE has painted an in-depth portrait of America’s imperiled infrastructure systems. While government investment has made some improvements in recent years, the sobering fact that 45% of Americans still have no access to transit, or that there is a water main break every two minutes in the United States demonstrate the reality that America’s infrastructure still falls short in many ways. Harrowing revelations like these were commonplace in nearly every infrastructure category and detailed during the ASCE Report Card Release and Solutions Summit webinar. The good news is this is the first time in 20 years since the ASCE began issuing their infrastructure report card, the nation had earned above a failing grade overall. The bad news is the vast majority of the nation’s infrastructure categories remain in the D category with limited resources to address the challenges. According to the 2021 ASCE Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, our country’s overall grade improved from a D- in 2017 to a C-.

Though steps in the right direction have been made, our current grade shows that there is still much more work to be done to improve the overall status of our nation’s infrastructure. Thomas Smith, ASCE’s Executive Director agrees, saying “This not a report card anyone would be proud to take home,” in a press release accompanying the announcement.


This image details the ASCE's 2021 grades for 16 different categories of America's Infrastructure systems.
This image details the ASCE’s 2021 grades for 16 different categories of America’s Infrastructure systems. This year, our overall ranking was a C-, up from 2017’s D-.

Lack of Infrastructure Funding Halts Progress

Across the board, a continual issue plaguing all sectors of America’s dilapidating infrastructure is the lack of funding. According to the ASCE, in the case of bridges alone, if we continue to spend at the current rate it would take us until 2071 to repair all the bridges in the country that require attention. The long-term infrastructure investment gap continues to grow, rising from $2.1 trillion over 10 years in 2017’s report to $2.59 trillion in the latest study, meaning a funding gap of $259 billion per year. “We have not made significant enough investments to maintain infrastructure that in some cases was built more than 50 years ago.” Director Thomas Smith says. “As this study shows, we risk significant economic losses, higher costs to consumers, businesses and manufacturers – and our quality of life – if we don’t act urgently. When we fail to invest in infrastructure, we pay the price.

Reviving Our Nation’s Infrastructure with Design-Build

Our nation is at a crossroads where federal economic investment would put our vital infrastructure back on track plus revive our economy as we rebuild after COVID. The Design-Build Institute of America has long supported Congressional efforts to pass infrastructure investment legislation and shares the frustration of many as it flounders each year. DBIA Executive Director/CEO Lisa Washington is confident that design-build can and will play a vital role in ensuring sustainable and resilient infrastructure for our nation.

“We can’t pave roads with promises. Rebuilding our infrastructure, improving public services to our citizenry, and providing American workers jobs isn’t a partisan issue. In fact, it’s one issue the vast majority of Americans continue to support year after year. Design-build played a vital role in rebuilding our economy in 2009 and will do so again in the post-COVID era by providing the nation’s most time and cost-efficient projects. We just need Congress to act.” 

Design-Build Delivery, an Investment in America’s Future

Research shows design-build will deliver nearly half of all construction dollars this year and is the best-performing delivery system for both schedule and cost. Many agencies used design-build after the passage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to deliver vital infrastructure projects on-time and on-budget under tight timelines and a mission to provide economic recovery quickly to communities. Design-build teams are ready to go to work again this year, delivering successful infrastructure investment projects nationwide.

Now, more than ever, it’s important for design-build teams to be prepared for what the future may hold. We know Owners will be searching for qualified design-build teams. Are you ready? In addition to DBIA’s Design-Build Done Right® courses and training, we hope you’ll join DBIA next month as we help teams prepare for the post-Covid future. The virtual Design-Build for Water/Wastewater  (April 12-14) and Transportation/Aviation (April 21-23) conferences will provide sector-specific resources, networking and training vital for design-builders working to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.