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Civil engineers give Ohio’s infrastructure a “C-” in 2021 Infrastructure Report Card

February 12th, 2021 / By: / Industry News

Grades across 16 categories span from a B to a D.

The Ohio Council of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled its 2021 Report Card for Ohio’s Infrastructure on Feb. 11, issuing grades from B to D for 16 categories pertinent to Ohio, including: bridges (C+), dams (C-), drinking water (D+), energy (C), hazardous waste (D+), inland waterways (D+), levees (D), parks (C-), ports (C), rail (B), roads (D), schools (C+), solid waste (B-), stormwater (D+), transit (D) and wastewater (C-).

“We found that Ohio has improved in some infrastructure areas over the last 10 years, but we also learned that we still have a lot of work to do to improve many grades,” said Craig Hebebrand, P.E., ASCE Ohio Council president. “We do these assessments to help citizens and decision-makers understand how Ohio’s infrastructure is faring and what can be done to modernize its systems.”

The report highlights some positive and innovative infrastructure successes. Rail infrastructure received the highest grade of a B, citing significant investment in technology that improves crossing safety and cut the volume of incidents in half over the last 20 years. Ohio has the fourth largest number of public rail/highway grade crossings in the country (5,737) and the state spends about $15 million annually at public crossings to reduce crashes. The state’s 12 intermodal terminal facilities—the 2nd highest volume in the nation—make important connections to ports on the East and West Coasts. In addition, Ohio roadways and bridges carry the third highest freight volume in the U.S., and Ohio’s 5,188 miles of railroad track alone carry approximately 100 million tons of freight annually.

“For years, America’s infrastructure was the envy of the world,” said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, chair, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. “But for too long now, we’ve failed to invest the necessary resources in our nation’s roads, bridges, schools and technology. I’m committed to working with President Biden and my colleagues in Congress to invest in our state’s infrastructure needs, create jobs for American workers and get our nation moving again.” 

Levees, roads and transit all received the lowest grade of “D.” Ohio’s levees protect 151,000 residents and $27.5 billion in property, yet 54% of those residents are living behind a levee that has not been screened. The average age of Ohio’s levees is 47 years, nearing their projected design life of 50 years.

The report notes the extensive and long-term lack of transit funding that decreased from $42.3 million in 2000 to $6.6 million in 2018. In 2019, the passage of H.B. 62 was intended to increase state funding for transit to $70 million in 2020 and 2021. Due to COVID-19, those funds have already been reduced to $66.8 million and $56 million. Similarly, the 2019 transportation budget increased the motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees, but with fewer people driving due to COVID-19, motor fuel tax revenues have fallen short of original projections.

“Infrastructure plays a vital role in the lives of Ohio’s residents and tourists, and supports commerce for local businesses and freight,” said U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson, who serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Ohio’s roadways and bridges carry the third-highest freight volume in the U.S. and accommodate the sixth-most vehicle miles traveled, making our state an essential tool in the national economy.”

Innovation and data-based decision-making were key themes in the report. For example, many Ohio water systems are now implementing advanced metering systems that capture individual usage, and allows both system managers and customers to access data and make better water usage decisions. This is an important step since aging water distribution networks are expected to cause a 36% increase in pipeline breaks over the next 20 years. Ohio’s energy utilities are also making major investments. Using smart grid telemetry, many utilities can now locate outages in an automated way—a tool that improves safety for utility personnel during and after storms, and removes the responsibility for ratepayers to report outages. Innovative practices such as these are important for addressing aging systems.

The report also includes recommendations to raise the grades, such as:

  • Create incentives for state and local governments as well as the private sector to invest in maintenance and to improve the efficiency and performance of existing infrastructure.
  • Improve land use planning at the local level to consider the function of existing and new infrastructure, the balance between the built and natural environments, and population trends in communities of all sizes.

The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policy makers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Ohio’s infrastructure network. This is the first Ohio-specific report card released in more than 10 years. ASCE State Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of “D+” in 2017. 

A full copy of the Report Card for Ohio’s Infrastructure is available at https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/ohio.