August 8, 2020
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A “status report” issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers on June 25 outlines the COVID-19 pandemic’s “detrimental effects” on a broad swath of publicly-owned U.S. infrastructure assets – from airports and inland waterways to roads, bridges, and transit systems.

[Above photo by the WVDOT.]

That report – dubbed COVID-19’s Impacts on America’s Infrastructure – also notes that municipal and state budgets have had to “re-prioritize spending” due to falling tax and fee revenues, reducing fiscal support for parks, schools, and other publicly owned infrastructure. Examples include:

Photo by the Wisconsin DOT
  • A projected 30 percent revenue decline in the next 18 months for the nation’s state departments of transportation.
  • An estimated $23.3 billion loss in airport revenue due to a 95 percent decline in domestic air travel.
  • An approximately 17 percent 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 declines in transit ridership declines – such as a 75 percent decrease experienced by the New Jersey/New York PATH; an 85 percent reduction in Washington, D.C., Metrorail ridership; and a 55 percent decrease in Los Angeles Metro ridership – which is reducing transit system revenues across the country.

ASCE’s report also provides several fiscal options help those infrastructure systems recover from the pandemic, including but not limited to:

Photo by the WVDOT
  • Provide $50 billion in immediate short-term relief for state DOTs so that bridges, roads, and transit systems may remain safe and reliable; echoing the request to Congress made by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in April.
  • Provide $10 billion to mitigate the pandemic’s growing impacts on the nation’s airports, in addition to the $10 billion in relief issued via the in the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act.
  • Pass a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that addresses the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund before the current surface transportation authorization expires on September 30.
  • Fully fund the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program at the authorized amount of $60 million 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.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s infrastructure was already in a crisis,” explained K.N. “Guna” Gunalan, ASCE’s president, in a statement.

“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,” he added.

“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 said.

editor@aashto.org

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