WASHINGTON — Crowded schools, traffic-choked roads and transit cutbacks are eroding the quality of American life, according to an analysis by civil engineers that gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D.
A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers released Wednesday assessed the four-year trend in the condition of 12 categories of infrastructure.
The overall grade slipped from the D+ given in 2001 and 2003. Overall conditions remained the same for bridges, dams and solid waste, the group said, and worsened in roads, drinking water, transit, wastewater, hazard waste, navigable waterways and energy.
"The condition of our nation’s roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other public works have shown little to no improvement since they were graded an overall D+ in 2001, with some areas sliding toward failing grades," the society said.
'Patch and pray' criticized
“Americans are spending more time stuck in traffic and less time at home with their families,” William Henry, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We need to establish a comprehensive, long-term infrastructure plan as opposed to our current ‘patch and pray’ method to ensure a better quality of life for everyone.”
The report said $1.6 trillion should be spent over the next five years to alleviate potential problems with the nation’s infrastructure.
Transportation alone requires $94 billion in annual spending, the report said, yet gets only $59 billion.
The House is to begin debate Wednesday on a six-year, $284 billion highway and mass transit bill, which stalled last year in a money dispute between the White House and Congress.
C+ the highest grade
The report concluded that airports will face the challenge of accommodating more regional jets and super-jumbo jets. Grade: D+.
It’s uncertain, the report said, whether schools can handle growing enrollment and smaller class sizes required by the No Child Left Behind Act. Grade: D.
The report also noted that many transit systems are borrowing money to maintain operations as they’re raising fees and cutting back service. Grade: D+.
The highest grade? A C+ for solid waste. The lowest? D- for drinking water, navigable waterways and wastewater.
Three new categories — public parks and recreation, rail, and security — were added to the previous 12. Each received a C-.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.