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GROUP RELEASES 2018 REPORT CARD ON PENNSYLVANIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE By Jeff Cox, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | November 14, 2018

GROUP RELEASES 2018 REPORT CARD ON PENNSYLVANIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE

By Jeff Cox, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | November 14, 2018

 

The Central Pennsylvania Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) held a news conference today in the Main Capitol rotunda to release the 2018 Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure. Evaluating 18 categories of infrastructure, the group gave Pennsylvania an overall grade of “C-.” This is the same grade Pennsylvania received in the previous report card issued in 2014 across 16 categories.

 

Gary Garbacik, past chairman, ASCE Central Pennsylvania Section, explained, “Since 2006, we have released a report card on Pennsylvania’s infrastructure every four years to help raise awareness of the condition of our state’s infrastructure. Today we are here to unveil the findings from our latest update.” He further explained that the report card represents a year’s worth of work from over 75 volunteers from the four ASCE sections across the commonwealth. According to Garbacik, “Our volunteers came from a variety of backgrounds including academia, design, contractors, infrastructure owners, and regulators.” He commented, “As civil engineers, our job is to design, plan, construct and maintain our infrastructure networks and this report card allows us the opportunity to share that information with the public.” Garbacik added, “We hope this information provides the insight needed to have the conversation about where we want to be in this state which will then ignite action from our leaders.” He emphasized, “It is important to say that the grades unveiled today reflect the current state of infrastructure and not a reflection of the agencies responsible for the infrastructure who are often working with limited resources.”

 

Stephanie Slocum, a member of the report card committee, provided an overview of the report card. She explained, “To create the report card, ASCE Pennsylvania engineers volunteered their time to collect, analyze, and review data for each type of infrastructure based on their specific areas of expertise.” Slocum pointed out the committee worked with authors of the national report card, which gave the nation a “D+” in 2017. She further explained, “Report card categories were graded on eight criteria: capacity, condition, operation and maintenance, funding, future need, public safety, resilience, and innovation.” Slocum said, “The report card provides a comprehensive assessment of PA’s infrastructure for residents, state and local leaders, and nonprofits all over the state.”

 

The report evaluated the 18 categories with the following grades: aviation (C+), bridges (D+), dams (C), drinking water (D), energy (C), freight rail (B), hazardous waste (B-), inland waterways (D), levees (C), parks and recreation (B-), passenger rail (C-), ports (C+), roads (D+), schools (C-), solid waste (C+), storm water (D), transit (D), and wastewater (D-).

 

ASCE offered the following recommendations to increase the letter grades for the transportation-related categories:

 

  • Encourage all 67 Pennsylvania counties to take advantage of the Act 89 provision to empower revenue collection at the local level.
  • Reimagine funding to look at multi-modal as a regional system and consider further exploring the counties’ abilities to raise funds to go towards passenger rails and transit.

 

Slocum noted, “Overall our water infrastructure represents some of the lowest grades in the report card and these categories are very closely tied to the public’s health and safety.” She reported, “Many public water system billing rates have not kept up with rising costs which means current user costs do not reflect the long-term costs of maintaining and repairing this type of infrastructure.” Slocum warned, “This results in a $10.2 billion drinking water gap over the next ten years in the commonwealth.” She continued, “Storm water infrastructure is often taken for granted until it fails with flooding or results in the polluted water.” According to Slocum, “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is the national leader in the amount of combined sewer overflows.” She explained, “That means that during heavier rainfalls, rain combines with sewage and enters directly into our rivers.” Slocum stated, “Obviously, this is unhealthy not just for the human residents of our state but the beautiful mountains, rivers and wildlife we all enjoy, which brings tourism dollars here.”

 

Slocum argued, “Building, replacing and updating our water infrastructure will require leadership to plan new approaches and improve upon existing conditions.” She added, “This will take significant capital but finding sufficient funding is critical to protecting our public health.” Slocum advocated, “We should encourage and support passage of legislation to align user fees with the true costs of treating, delivering and managing water and wastewater,” She stated, “Our water infrastructure has the lowest grades in Pennsylvania and if we give as much attention to water as we have to transportation imagine the improvements we could see.”

 

Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), outgoing chairman of the House Transportation Committee, thanked ASCE for their report “not only for the specifics that have been provided but keeping the topic of infrastructure in front of the public, in front of lawmakers, and in front of the administration.” He added, “We almost need to do that every day.” Rep. Taylor commented, “We are certainly hopeful that the federal government, the president and the US Congress come up with a comprehensive infrastructure plan that Pennsylvania and other states can benefit from.” He said, “I believe this report is significant in that we have trended in the right direction in many, many spots across the commonwealth.” Rep. Taylor commended the Wolf administration for its investments in Pennsylvania ports, especially the port of Philadelphia. He also outlined some of the benefits achieved through the passage of Act 89 and its impact on providing funding for the commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure.

 

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