The American Society of Civil Engineers asserts that the Covid-19 pandemic has had detrimental effects on the nation’s critical infrastructure, including airports, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, parks, ports, roads, schools, transit and wastewater facilities.
The ASCE study,” Covid-19’s Impacts on America’s Infrastructure,” is a status report on what the engineers characterize as an aging system already suffering from underinvestment before the pandemic began earlier this year.
“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our nation’s infrastructure was already in a crisis,” said ASCE President Dr. K.N. Gunalan. “Each American household was already losing at least $3,400 each year in disposable income due to poor and outdated roads, bridges, electric grid, water systems and more-systems that are critical to the public’s health, safety and welfare.”
ASCE hopes the report will result in federal policymakers taking action to address the need. “I encourage Congress to review this report and its solutions, and make infrastructure investment a priority in their immediate response and long-term economic recovery strategy, so that we can get Americans back to work and use this opportunity to rebuild more resiliently,” Gunalan added.
ASCE points out that in 2019, the United States spent just 2.5% of its GDP on infrastructure, down from 4.2% in the 1930s. It forecasts that from 2016 to 2025, the U.S. underinvested in our infrastructure by $2 trillion.
The report notes that Covid-19 has caused a decrease in commercial water use, drivers on the road and using public transit and airports. In addition, municipal and state budgets have had to reprioritize spending, causing less available support for parks, schools and other publicly owned infrastructure.
Some of the latest impacts COVID-19 has had on these sectors cited by the report include:
An estimated $23.3 billion loss in airport revenue due to a 95% decline in domestic air travel.
A projected 30% revenue decline in the next 18 months for the nation’s state Departments of Transportation.
An approximately 17% loss in annualized revenue in the drinking water sector, including more than $5 billion in losses related to suspending water service disconnections and increased customer delinquencies.
Dramatic nationwide ridership declines in transit systems. These include 75% decrease on the PATH commuter rail system in New Jersey and New York; 85% reduction in Washington, D.C. Metrorail ridership and 55% decrease in ridership on Los Angeles Metro.
ASCE argues that Congress should provide $10 billion to mitigate the pandemic’s growing impacts on the nation’s airports, in addition to the $10 billion in relief which was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
It also said Congress should pass a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization that addresses the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund before the current surface transportation authorization expires on Sept. 30.
In addition, ASCE says the federal government needs to supply $50 billion in immediate, short-term relief for state DOTs so that bridges, roads, and transit systems may remain safe and reliable.
It seeks full funding of the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program at the authorized amount of $60 million for 2021 and seeks passage of the Dam Safety Improvement Act. ASCE also urges federal drinking water and wastewater assistance for ratepayers and providing water utilities with federal economic relief to combat revenue losses resulting from Covid-19.
ASCE also wants to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects, particularly to connect new sources of renewable energy to the electric grid, it recommends, and wants to include the Rebuild America’s School Infrastructure Act in future economic relief packages.