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Study sets out pandemic’s dire effect on US infrastructure

25 Jun 20 A new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has spelt out the dire impacts that Covid-19 has had on the country’s infrastructure.

The status report provides a snapshot of the pandemic’s detrimental effects on airports, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, parks, ports, roads, schools, transit and wastewater infrastructure. It also looks at the impact on workers and offers solutions for Congress to consider in the long-term economic recovery strategy.

“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our nation’s infrastructure was already in a crisis,” said ASCE president Dr KN Gunalan. “Each American household was already losing at least $3,400 [£2,700] each year in disposable income due to poor and outdated roads, bridges, electric grid, water systems and more—systems that are critical to the public’s health, safety and welfare. 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.”

The report notes that Covid-19 has caused a decrease in commercial water use, drivers on the road and use of public transit and airports. In addition, municipal and state budgets have had to reprioritise spending, resulting in less available support for parks, schools and other publicly owned infrastructure.

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Among the latest impacts are:

  • an estimated US$23.3bn loss in airport revenue due to a 95% decline in domestic air travel;
  • a projected 30% revenue decline in the next 18 months for state departments of transportation (DOTs);
  • approximately 17% loss in annualised revenue in the drinking water sector;
  • dramatic nationwide ridership declines in transit systems such as a 75% decrease on the Path commuter rail system in New Jersey and New York.
  • ASCE has offered a number of solutions to help infrastructure systems recover from the pandemic.
  • ASCE said that many of these recommendations are being taken forward.

The proposed solutions include that Congress should:

  • provide an additional US$10bn to mitigate the pandemic’s growing impacts on airports;
  • provide US$50bn in immediate, short-term relief for state DOTs so that bridges, roads, and transit systems may remain safe and reliable;
  • pass a multi-year surface transportation reauthorisation that addresses the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund before the current surface transportation authorisation expires on 30th September;
  • gully fund the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program at the authorised amount of US$60m for 2021 and pass that Dam Safety Improvement Act;
  • include federal drinking water and wastewater assistance for ratepayers and provide water utilities with federal economic relief to combat revenue losses resulting from Covid-19;
  • streamline the permitting process, particularly to connect new sources of renewable energy to the electric grid;
  • include the Rebuild America’s School Infrastructure Act in future economic relief packages.

Next year’s ASCE Infrastructure Report Card is due to be released in February 2021.

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