2021 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card Summary

Over the last several years, much has been studied, analyzed, and written as it relates to the aging U.S. infrastructure. While GPRS does not pretend that we have the expertise to add high-level studies, data, or information to the ongoing conversation regarding infrastructure, we hope to provide a unique perspective from an industry contractor who supports the efforts to maintain, upgrade, and replace that infrastructure. Our goal is to grant you a new perspective, showcasing the unique ways in which GPRS might be able to support the needed infrastructure upgrades in our communities. For example, from one vantage point, given the data, the infrastructure needs of the U.S. seem like an insurmountable task. However, from our vantage point, with the power of American ingenuity, teamwork, and determination, we can overcome and ensure the critical infrastructure stability needed for future generations.

First, it is important to first define what we mean when we say “U.S Infrastructure.” Infrastructure refers to the basic systems and services that allow a country or organization to function properly. For a whole nation, such as the United States, this encompasses the following: road and railway networks, utilities, sewage, water, telephone lines and cell towers, air control towers, bridges, etc. Additionally, a definition for ‘critical infrastructure is also provided by Wikipedia (sourced by common and educated resources from around the globe) which offers a more narrow and helpful list of “critical infrastructure” (link). Even more helpful, however, is the infrastructure list provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in their landmark report, 2021 Infrastructure Report Card – A Comprehensive Assessment of America’s Infrastructure (link). 

Within this report, the ASCE recognizes 16 categories (which differ from those supplied by the Department of Homeland Security) that it deems critical. Of this group, GPRS will review and consider 5. Our selection is not meant to comply importance. Simply put, these are infrastructure segments in which GPRS holds a unique expertise and perspective. These categories are:

  1. Bridges – Receiving a ‘C’ grade on the ASCE Report Card, the US has more than 617,000 bridges countrywide. 42% of these bridges are over 50 years old, while more than 7.5% of bridges in the U.S. were deemed structurally deficient, a two percent decrease from 2021. Unfortunately, it is calculated that 178 million trips are conducted across bridges that were deemed structurally deficient. Lastly, it is estimated that it will take more than $125 billion to rehabilitate the nation’s structurally deficient bridges – increasing the spending on bridge rehabilitation from $14.4 billion per year to $22.5 billion.
    1. The Report Card estimates the total infrastructure budget needed to repair our roadways and bridges (surface transportation) at $2.834 trillion. 
    2. Source: ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, page 9
  2. Drinking Water – Receiving a ‘C-’ grade on the ASCE Report Card, there is roughly 2.2 million miles of underground pipes that provide safe, drinkable water to American citizens. However, it is estimated that a water main breaks every two minutes, with an estimated 6 billion gallons of treated water lost each year; that amount of water could fill up 9,000 swimming pools! And with many of these pipes being having been installed in the early to mid-20th century, contamination is a concern. The American Water Works Association estimates $1.045 trillion is needed to maintain and expand water service in the near future. 
    1. The Report Card estimates the total infrastructure budget needed to repair our drinking water supply system is $150 billion (combined with our wastewater and stormwater systems). 
    2. Source: ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, page 9
  3. Energy – Receiving a ‘C-’, the U.S. energy system also presents some frightening statistics. As of 2020, it was estimated that there was more than 600,000 miles of backbone transmission lines throughout the fifty states; 240,000 of which are considered high-voltage transmission lines. This system is responsible for providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective electricity to customers; however, most lines were installed in the 50s and 60s, and have surpassed the planned life expectancy of 50 years. 
    1. The Report Card estimates the total infrastructure budget needed to repair our energy system is $637 billion. 
    2. Source: ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, page 9
  4. Roads – To quote the ASCE 2021 Report Card directly, “America’s roads are critical for moving an ever-increasing number of people and goods. However, these vital lifelines are frequently underfunded, and over 40% of the system is now in poor or mediocre condition.” The ASCE offered a ‘D’ grade to American roads. Although traffic fatalities have been in decline the last few years, ASCE states that over 36,000 people are still dying on our nations’ roadways every single year. 
    1. As noted above, the Report Card estimates the total infrastructure budget needed to repair our roadways and bridges (surface transportation) at $2.834 trillion. 
    2. Source: ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, page 9
  5. Wastewater – With roughly more than 16,000 wastewater treatment plants around the U.S., we have seen significant increases in water quality. Though large-scale capital improvements have been made to systems experiencing sanitary sewer overflows, efforts have slowed in recent years. Millions of new users will be connected to centralized plants over the next 20 years, and new infrastructure is needed to meet this demand, not to mention the burden that becomes placed on existing facilities. As it relates to our wastewater facilities, the ASCE offered a ‘D+’ grade. 
    1. The Report Card estimates the total infrastructure budget needed to repair and upgrade our wastewater system is $150 billion (combined with our drinking water and stormwater supply system ‘as show above’). 
    2. Source: ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, page 9

In total, the ASCE estimates needing $4,516,000,000,000 to complete the necessary repairs and upgrades to the 5 critical infrastructure categories noted in this article. While the current statistics surrounding the aged U.S. infrastructure are concerning, to say the least, things are not too far past restoration…yet. Attention must be given to the remediation, repair, and ongoing maintenance procedures for our infrastructure. Because if little is done to strengthen our efforts, the articles written 10 years from now will offer a grim picture as it relates to failing infrastructure, and we will witness the spending, necessary to bring things back to U.S. standards, increase exponentially in the most prominent and technologically advanced country in the world. What is needed to overcome these statistics is a sound strategy and a commitment to teamwork ranging from local contractors to the national government. 

(Note: the statistics above were sourced from the referenced ASCE 2021 Infrastructure Report Card – link)

For more information on the critical infrastructure referenced in the ASCE 2021 Report Card, please review the attached screen shot from their publication. And be sure to visit their site for more resources and information (link)

The ASCE 2021 Report Card offers an overarching strategy for how to deal with the current critical infrastructure crisis in the U.S. Their strategy is inclusive of the following keys:

  • Investment – Given the financial statistics quoted above, it is easy to see that a significant financial investment will be necessary. The manner in which that investment is deployed is key, as the Report Card states. The investment approach must be long-term and consistent in its focus. 
  • Leadership & Action – The Report Card states, “Smart investment will only be possible with strong leadership, decisive action, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.” A collaborative and oriented effort from all levels of government, business, labor, and nonprofit organizations is the only way to overcome the daunting infrastructure needs in the U.S.
  • Resilience – After coming together and creating positive leadership, we must utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure the U.S. infrastructure can withstand or quickly recover from natural or man-made hazards. This tough resilience ensures the future safety of our nations infrastructure and helps protect our nations people from danger. 

As an industry partner working on and around the named U.S. infrastructure daily, GPRS believes we have a unique vantage point allowing us to offer distinctive recommendations within the categories enumerated in the ASCE 2021 Report Card listed below:

  • Investment – the technologies and services deployed by GPRS and similar subsurface contractors can offer high quality information on subsurface features critical to determining the location of the infrastructure in question. From concrete scanning analysis and mapping with the ability to provide 3D images of inspection areas to utility locating, designating, and mapping, the pre-project spending (investing) conducted with companies specializing in scanning and locating is certain to save financial resources down the road. Additionally, locating, and scanning companies like GPRS can deploy technologically advanced video pipe inspection equipment that can provide a high-quality internal view of piping.  All the information and images collected with Video Pipe Inspection (VPI) equipment are compiled and positioned within a formal report (many providers like GPRS provide NASSCO certified reports). This subsurface information makes project planning more accurate, provides real-time information on the location of subsurface features of concern, and can illuminate other hazards within the project vicinity that may not be originally known. 

Contractors specializing in subsurface investigations offer many unique studies that are certain to protect and ensure the investments made in our critical infrastructure that are prudent for site safety and protection. These services could include any of the following:

  • Concrete Imaging and Investigations:
    • Scanning to determine the positioning (horizontal and vertical) of reinforcing steel
    • Locating subsurface voids around critical infrastructure below concrete slabs
    • Analysis of reinforcing steel delamination and deterioration
    • Concrete voiding and honeycombing investigations
    • 3D imaging of concrete embedment’s
    • And more…
  • Utility Locating and Investigations:
    • Scanning to determine the positioning (horizontal and vertical) of subsurface utilities
    • Locating subsurface faults around critical infrastructure
    • Locating non-metallic objects, structures, and pipes
    • Conflict and anomaly investigations related to unknown subsurface features
    • And more…
  • Video Pipe Inspections and Investigations:
    • Structural integrity consultation related to the internal features of large pipes
    • Blockage investigation and awareness
    • Cross-drill confirmation and locating
    • Accurate vertical and horizontal locating of the utility line being video captured
    • Confirmation of sound construction practices post installation of utility infrastructure
    • And more…
  • Deliverables Facility Mapping and Modeling:
    • 3D imaging of concrete and utility subsurface features
    • Accurate, GPS collected data points which can be mapped and provided to a utility contractor in varied data formats (Revit, AutoCAD, KMZ, etc.)
    • Aerial drone imaging
    • Formal written reports with detailed reviews of the subsurface findings including pictures and data screen shots
    • Contour maps for electromagnetic induction data
    • Contour maps displaying disparity in reinforcing steel spacing, elevation, and concrete thickness
    • Accurate facility maps that showcase all subsurface utilities
    • And more…

Again, the construction landscape has many service providers capable of providing expert subsurface investigations, with many of those investigations listed above. GPRS and similar service providers exist for the purpose of revealing unknown subsurface concerns in many and varied ways to, again, support and protect the investment needed when planning and conducting critical utility infrastructure projects. 

  • Leadership & Action – GPRS and our similarly equipped competitors and industry service providers offer our field service team members, who are committed to deploying the right tool with the correct scanning method, on any infrastructure project. Further, they are prepared to offer a consultative approach to a project’s decision makers that moves them closer to the solutions needed when repairing or updating critical infrastructure. Our industries services and team members work in concert with the architects, civil engineers, and construction professionals ensuring they have the most accurate subsurface information on their job site. It’s all but certain that the information provided by GPRS or a similarly capable company will increase the speed of the project, limit cost overruns related to unknown subsurface concerns, and streamline the flow of critical infrastructure information between all leaders on a given job site. Additionally, GPRS and similar service providers help leverage proven and emerging tech to make use of limited available resources, and ensure all investments are spent wisely, prioritizing projects with critical benefits to the economy, public safety, environment, and quality of life (sustainability). 
  • Resilience – In our industry, resilience comes when you are able to grow and adapt with the changes that are necessary to help maintain and support the future needs of U.S. Infrastructure. For example, as an infrastructure maintenance or repair project is underway, GPRS offers scanning and mapping services on a set interval to ensure all subsurface utility changes are captured and prepared for future records needs. Mapping whole utility infrastructure systems (wastewater facility, water filtration plant, energy production environment, etc.) and providing ongoing mapping of that system is not beyond the capabilities of the best service providers in our industry. Having accurate and up-to-date records of an entire utility infrastructure facility provides cost saving data which can be utilized in the future. Not only the locating, mapping, and data storage capabilities of GPRS add future value but, our technologies will continue being seen as a viable non-destructive key to maintaining our critical infrastructure. 

Overall, the most effective, qualified, and skilled subsurface investigation companies are focused on providing the subsurface information necessary to empower project solutions for even the most complex infrastructure job sites. True industry-leading subsurface contractors got into this industry to provide added safety and risk mitigating benefits through the application of these services, in addition to increasing their return on investment, as well.

In each of the recommendations presented by the ASCE in their Report Card, it is easy to see that a qualified service provider like GPRS has a key support role to play. Whether in utility locating and mapping, concrete scanning and mapping, NASSCO certified video pipe inspection services, or client facility mapping and data management support, our industry providers can be your subsurface eyes helping you plan and execute your critical infrastructure maintenance project. When you are in need of subsurface solutions, turn to an expert, industry-leading company, that provides subsurface locating and assessment. 

In closing, although the aging infrastructure in the U.S. has improved, it is still certainly problematic. But when compared to the various seen and unseen adversities we have faced as a country, this is nothing. With leadership, resilience, and hard work, we can turn it around. Furthermore, the key to overcoming adversity and moving forward within the excellent support and management of our critical infrastructure is teamwork, a care for the common good of our fellow Americans, and an adept plan of attack. The best solutions won’t come from our nation’s government alone but from a collaborative effort from all levels of government, business, labor, and nonprofit organizations — the creative individuals powering our engineering, construction, and support service businesses. Will you join GPRS in pushing forward with the fight against our growing infrastructure concerns, and create a world with 100% subsurface damage prevention? If so, follow us.