Thursday, July 28, 2011
Civil Engineers Assess Bay Area’s Infrastructure
San Francisco, Calif.—Bay Area residents have seen infrastructure failure—a reminder that the state of our nation's infrastructure directly affects our economy and quality of life. The San Francisco Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released its 2011 Report Card for Bay Area Infrastructure today, assigning the Bay Area’s cumulative infrastructure a grade of C.
The announcement was made today on Pier 7—the city’s second longest fishing pier with some of the most beautiful views of the bay—with the following invited speakers: San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, Mayor Chuck Reed (San Jose), Mayor Jean Quan (Oakland), State Senator Noreen Evans and State Assemblyman Jerry Hill. With the grade of C for the region’s infrastructure, the Report Card suggests that the Bay Area needs to begin improvements on infrastructure and make infrastructure funding a priority. Although the overall grade is slightly higher than that issued in 2005, the assessment has taken place in an economy that has had 11% unemployment, traffic volumes down by 6% and transit ridership down by 4.5%. A resurging economy will stress the capacity of our infrastructure. Action needs to begin now to address the deteriorating infrastructure. The annual infrastructure investment need has nearly tripled in six years. This report marks the first assessment update of the condition of our local roads, bridges, drinking water systems and other public works in six years.
As the recent tragic events of San Bruno have proved, aging infrastructure can have unexpected and significant effects. Section Past President Brent Siemer stated in 2005, "Time is working against our region’s infrastructure, and a comprehensive, long-term development and maintenance plan must become a priority for our policy leaders before it is too late." This still remains a priority in 2011.
The 2011 Report Card for Bay Area Infrastructure assesses nine infrastructure categories—roadways, bridges and structures, transit, aviation, goods movement (freight and cargo handling), parks, urban stormwater and flood control, water and wastewater. Grades ranged from a high of B for aviation to a low of D+ for roadways, goods movement and urban storm water. To remedy the region’s current and looming problems, ASCE San Francisco estimates an additional investment of at least $2.8 billion dollars per year is needed. This is up from the annual investment need forecasted in 2005 by $1.8 billion dollars. The need has nearly tripled in six years.
The region’s 1,370 miles of highways and freeways, and 19,000 miles of city and county roads, rank in the top five worst pavement conditions of the top 20 major urban areas in the country. The Transportation 2035 Plan, by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), states that the current level of funding is not sufficient to fully address projected maintenance needs, resulting in more time delays and out-of-pocket costs for motorists.
Expanding capacity for Interstate 880 and Interstate 580, rail improvements, improved access to all port facilities and additional security improvements are tantamount for maintaining this industrial goods movement corridor. For urban stormwater and flood control, there needs to be legislation to generate revenue specifically to address the water quality treatment requirements mandated by law.
Fairing only slightly better, parks received a grade of C-. The needs have remained unchanged. Many of our region’s parks are falling into a state of disrepair. These facilities are anchors for tourism and economic development and often provide the public's only access to cultural, historic and natural resources. Without continued investment, the level of service will decrease and negatively impact the public’s use of park and open space facilities in the Bay Area. Even with the passage of Proposition 84 in 2006, chronic underfunding will continue to have a significant impact.
Transit received a grade of C. Many significant improvements are programmed for BART’s fleet replacement and structural seismic upgrades, MUNI’s Central Subway and the Transbay Terminal. Transit agencies continue to be underfunded, a result of reduction in ridership and cost sharing with partners whose own funding capability became diminished with the economic down turn. The Transportation 2035 Plan, published in April 2009 by MTC, sited an initial $25.2 billion-dollar need for the next 25 years—a 367% increase since 2005.
Bridges and structures and wastewater received a grade of C+. According to a review of available bridge sufficiency ratings across the region, more than 75% are in good condition. A single deficient structure can cause significant impact, and an alarming 12.8% of the region’s structures are considered structurally deficient.
Wastewater received a lower grade in 2011 than in 2005 because local agencies made more conservative estimates of their systems. While some significant investments in capital improvement programs have taken place, many agencies struggle with meeting increased regulations in the current economic climate.
Water received a grade of B-, an improvement since 2005 resulting from significant (multi-million dollar) investments and progress by several large agencies in capital improvement programs. Many agencies still have significant needs.
Aviation received a grade of B. The Report Card’s highest grade, it is mainly the result of major airports embarking upon key capital improvement programs and a forecasted reduction in passenger volume for 2020 as a result of September 11, 2001.
The 2011 Report Card for Bay Area Infrastructure evaluated the Bay Area’s nine counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma. Assessed by an advisory council of 14 civil engineers representing a broad spectrum of civil engineering disciplines, each category was evaluated on:
- condition—a combination of existing condition, physical age, rehabilitation and replacement budget, and design life;
- capacity—existing and future;
- deferred investment; and
- security and safety—compliance with state and federal regulations, security accessibility, ability to continue operation during and following a credible seismic event and physical improvements required for protection from natural or manmade threats to the infrastructure.
For more information and to obtain a copy of the 2011 Report Card for Bay Area Infrastructure, visit www.asce-sf.org.