By ZACH HARMUTH
The Tennessee Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) on Tuesday released its 2016 Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure, grading 10 categories of the state’s infrastructure, resulting in an overall grade point average of “C.”
A team of professional engineers from across Tennessee assessed the 10 categories, including Aviation (B-), Bridges (B), Dams (D), Drinking Water (C), Inland Waterways (C-), Parks (C), Roads (C+), Schools (C-), Transit (D+) and Wastewater (D+).
The last Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure, released in 2009, also gave the state’s infrastructure a GPA of “C.” The last ASCE national report, in 2013, gave the country an overall grade of a D+.
The ASCE defines a “C” as “MEDIOCRE: REQUIRES ATTENTION: The infrastructure in the system or network is in fair to good condition; it shows general signs of deterioration and requires attention. Some elements exhibit significant deficiencies in conditions and functionality, with increasing vulnerability to risk.”
“Tennessee’s infrastructure is at a crossroads of exploding population growth, aging infrastructure, and inadequate funding,” said Monica Sartain, chair, Tennessee Infrastructure Report Card Committee, n a release. “To live up to our nickname, ‘America at its best,’ we need more than mediocre infrastructure; we need sustainable, strategic solutions and investments across all categories of infrastructure.”
The 2016 Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure found that much of the state’s infrastructure requires investment and upgrades to keep up with its growing population and infrastructure demands. Of note:
The state is home to the lowest number of bridges that are both structurally deficient and functionally obsolete of all the southeastern states.
Tennessee is home to 576 farm pond dams that are exempt from regulation and regular inspection requirements.
Increasing traffic levels around the state cause significant delays. Each year, the average driver in Tennessee’s large urban areas loses significant time to traffic congestion:
Chattanooga: 28 hours,
Knoxville: 35 hours,
Memphis: 43 hours, and
Nashville/Davidson: 45 hours.
While Tennessee’s roads are in superior condition when compared to neighboring states, current funding will not keep pace with demand and deteriorating performance, with an estimated $475 million necessary each year
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates Tennessee’s total 20-year drinking water infrastructure needs to be $2.7 billion.
Budget cuts and depleted funds in the federal Inland Waterways Trust Fund threaten to set back Tennessee’s water transportation infrastructure, including the new Chickamauga Lock, Tennessee’s biggest water infrastructure project.
The U.S. EPA Clean Water Needs Survey (CWNS) shows an overall need of $2.6 billion for Tennessee’s wastewater infrastructure.
Given these infrastructure challenges, the Tennessee Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers urges a number of recommendations to raise the grades, including:
Finding sustainable solutions that will help Tennessee build a transportation network for the future;
Leveraging infrastructure investments to help manage the impact of expected population growth;
Leveraging the state’s central location as a transportation hub;
Raising awareness of the true cost of water; and
Lessening the unknowns about the state’s farm pond dams.
The Report Card for Tennessee’s Infrastructure was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers of the state to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their community. By using school report card letter grades, civil engineers, including students at Vanderbilt University, used their expertise to condense complicated data into an easy-to- understand analysis.
To view the full Tennessee report, visit http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/tennessee