America’s Infrastructure Gets a D+

Cumberland, Maryland

WPA workers constructing a sidewalk, 1937
Cumberland, Maryland

If there ever was a time to invest in a New New Deal, this is it. Our airports, roads, bridges, dams, parks, schools, and water lines are falling apart. The American Society of Civil Engineers annually issues a report card on the condition of our nation’s infrastructure. This year the nation’s engineers gave America a D+.

They estimate it will take $3.6 trillion for America to rebuild. Meanwhile, 26 million Americans who would like a full-time job can’t find one. During the Great Depression, Americans invested in work and construction programs that built much of the infrastructure we depend on today. Now America’s infrastructure investment barely makes the grade:

Aviation: “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the national cost of airport congestion and delays was almost $22 billion in 2012.” Grade: D

Skagit River, Washington

Recent bridge collapse on I-5
Skagit River, Washington

Bridges: “…one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient…” Grade: C+

Dams: “The number of deficient dams is estimated at more than 4,000, which includes 2,000 deficient high-hazard dams.” Grade: D

Drinking Water: “There are an estimated 240,000 water main breaks per year in the United States.” Grade: D

Levees: “Many levees were originally used to protect farmland from flooding and now are increasingly protecting developed communities. The reliability of these levees is unknown in many cases, and public safety remains at risk from these aging structures.” Grade: D-

Parks and Recreation: Park and recreation “activities contribute $646 billion to the nation’s economy, supporting 6.1 million jobs. Yet states and localities struggle to provide these benefits amid flat and declining budgets.” Grade: C-

Roads: “Forty-two percent of America’s major urban highways remain congested, costing the economy an estimated $101 billion in wasted time and fuel annually.” Grade: D

Schools: “Public school enrollment is projected to gradually increase through 2019, yet state and local school construction funding continues to decline.” Grade: D

Susan Ives contributed to this article.

Brent McKee is a Living New Deal Research Associate (the first, in fact!) and a core member of the LND team. He lives in West Virginia.

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