Albany, NY. — The New York Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) today released the 2022 Report Card for New York's Infrastructure, with 11 categories of infrastructure receiving an overall grade of a ‘C’, meaning New York’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition. New York has taken recent steps to improve its infrastructure with record levels of funding, especially for transportation systems. However, these improvements are short lived and will need to be expanded to address future needs. As the urgency to make infrastructure more equitable persists, commuting patterns shift, and climate change leads to increasingly severe weather, these systems will need reliable revenue sources to ensure the built environment is able to adapt with evolving needs. Civil engineers graded aviation (C+), bridges (C-), dams (C), drinking water (C-), parks (B-), ports (C+), rail (C), roads (D+), solid waste (B-), transit (D+) and wastewater (D+).
“Throughout my time in Congress, I have been proud to work with the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to inform the public about the need to invest in America’s infrastructure and the costs of failing to do so,” said Rep. John Katko. “ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card is a critical tool that provides everyday citizens with an understanding of the state of our infrastructure systems at the statewide and national levels. There is significant work to be done to improve our infrastructure grades across the board, and I am proud that Congress provided a critical down payment towards these efforts with the recent passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
New York State (NYS) has made strides in advancing its bridge (C-) program, from high profile replacements of critical lifeline bridges, such as the Governor Mario M. Cuomo and Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridges, to the reconstruction or replacement of hundreds of smaller bridges to improve resilience against flooding events. Programs such as Bridge NY have given local bridge projects a boost in funding to address safety concerns, awarding more than $541 million for the rehabilitation of 231 bridges between 2016 and 2022. NYSDOT has embraced a “Preservation First” approach to maintaining transportation assets, including roads (D+) and bridges, to make the best use of limited funding. Over the last 10 years, NYSDOT also has furthered their GreenLITES Program, which integrates sustainability principles into transportation, including greater use of permeable paving materials to reduce storm runoff, as well as the use of recycled materials in pavements.
The biggest threat to New York’s roads and bridges is the uncertainty of future federal funding. Federal aid covers more than 40% of NYSDOT’s capital program and approximately 56% of on and off-system construction. Last year’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will provide New York with $11.6 billion for federal-aid highway programs and $1.9 billion for bridge replacement and repairs, the single largest dedicated bridge investment in over 50 years. However, the IIJA is a five-year program and does not guarantee long-term funding allocation to these critical systems which need to catch up to current and future demands. Almost 10% of NYS bridges are in poor condition, which is above the national average of 7%, and 637 bridges are posted for load restrictions, which slows down the local and regional economies by forcing freight trucks to find time-consuming detours along their routes.
New York is the most transit (D+) intensive state in the nation, with nearly 10 million trips per day pre-pandemic. When comparing estimated investment needs with expected available resources, New York’s mass transit network faces a $26.6 billion capital funding gap through 2024. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has been able to make progress towards addressing its state of good repair backlog over the last decade, growing core needs across the MTA network account for more than half ($16.4 billion) of this shortfall. Additionally, 26% of all transit vehicles statewide are beyond their end of service life.
Drinking water (C-) investment has not kept pace with the demand. The 20-year need for drinking water infrastructure is estimated at $38.2 billion, but water system revenue has only been growing at about the rate of inflation and many proposed improvements go unfunded. Nearly 40% of New York City’s pipes were placed prior to 1941, despite the design life of these pipes being 50-70 years. Treated water loss is a sizeable issue throughout much of NYS, with some utilities having upwards of 40% unaccounted for water, which represents lost revenue potential, decreased system capacity, and increased treatment costs. This is also much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) industry goal of 10% or less unaccounted water.
“This report illuminates concerns with our infrastructure that sometimes are out-of-sight, out-of-mind, such as drinking water pipelines and wastewater systems,” said George Kalkowsky, co-chair, 2022 Report Card for New York’s Infrastructure. “We must prioritize these systems to protect New York families and businesses because failing to do so can lead to issues we don’t recognize until it’s too late. It is far more cost effective to prioritize maintenance before issues arise.
New York’s wastewater systems are also aging beyond their useful life, as approximately 40% of New York’s 35,000 miles of sewers are more than 60 years old and about 10% were built before 1925. According to the Office of the NYS Comptroller, there are currently 800 combined sewer outfalls (an outlet along the waterfront connecting the city’s sewers to open waters) in New York State and approximately 6.5 billion gallons of untreated combined sewer and stormwater were released in 2017 due to Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). CSOs are the release of partially treated or untreated sanitary waste which can contaminate surface waters and threaten public health.
Recent supply chain issues and congestion have demonstrated the essential role America’s multimodal freight network serves in the national and global economy. New York supports one of the busiest port (C+) systems in the U.S., along with 3,300 miles of rail (C) lines. Most New York ports have adequate highway and on-dock rail access and are dredged to depths between 25–50 feet, meaning they are equipped to handle large vessels. However, wharf conditions range widely, from good to poor. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has identified a capital need of $20 billion to replace mission-critical wharf structures. The state’s ports need to raise critical infrastructure (especially electrical facilities and control rooms) to minimize the impacts of water level rise. Fortunately, PANYNJ is a national leader in ports’ resilience, with a department for sustainability and a set of Climate Resilience Design Guidelines.
The report also includes calls to action to raise the grades, including the recommendation that New York agencies employ technical training and apprenticeship programs to address operational worker shortfalls. The report also calls for further actions to be taken to increase the lifespans of new infrastructure assets, implementing policies that allow agencies to test new materials, utilize new construction techniques, and take advantage of alternative delivery mechanisms, including design-build.
The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card-style letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of New York’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure an overall grade of ‘C-’ in 2021.
About the American Society of Civil Engineers
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation's infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and improve engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit www.asce.org or www.infrastructurereportcard.org and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.