WATERBURY, CT. — The Connecticut Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the 2022 Report Card for Connecticut's Infrastructure today, with five categories of infrastructure receiving an overall grade of a ‘C’. That means Connecticut’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition, an improvement over the ‘C-‘ grade issued in the 2018 report card. The bump is thanks in large part to improved condition of assets across several categories and additional funding allocated for roads, bridges and rail. Connecticut is also set to receive more than $5 billion from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was passed in late 2021. However, these improvements are threatened by Connecticut’s aging infrastructure — one of the oldest infrastructure networks in the U.S. — and the recent suspension of the state’s already-insufficient gas tax. Civil engineers graded bridges (C), drinking water (C), rail (B), roads (D+), and wastewater (C-).
“This Infrastructure Report Card shows that while Connecticut has made great progress, much more needs to be done to rebuild our state’s roads and bridges and deliver essential services like clean drinking water,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is expected to invest more than $5 billion in Connecticut’s infrastructure and create thousands of good paying jobs for the workforce. These federal funds, along with critically increased job training resources, will help address the challenges outlined in the Report Card. I thank the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers for their commitment to designing and building our infrastructure, as well as all of the workers who innovate and advance the systems and structures we rely on every day.”
“This report shows that Connecticut’s infrastructure has improved in recent years, but unreliable funding sources, increasingly severe weather, and high inflation combined with our aging systems puts forward progress at risk,” said Roy Merritt, Jr., chair, 2022 Report Card for Connecticut’s Infrastructure. “Through the federal infrastructure bill and innovations in the field, we have an opportunity to transform the state’s built environment to support economic growth and keep residents safe.”
Bridges (C) and Roads (D+)
According to CTDOT, 61% of Connecticut’s roadway network is in a state of poor or mediocre condition, with most of these poor conditions falling under town-maintained roads rather than state-maintained roads. Most road funding comes from the state gas tax, which was recently suspended. Prior to the gas tax suspension, the last change was a 2001 increase to $0.25 per gallon, which now has 50% less purchasing power today due to inflation.
Connecticut roads also face significant congestion issues, ranking 8th highest in the nation with 68% of urban interstates facing routine congestion. Significantly, six of the top 15 freight/trucking bottlenecks in the country are located on Connecticut highways.
Bridges have benefitted from more consistent funding, a preventative maintenance focus, and incorporation of innovative materials and techniques to achieve a drastic reduction in the percentage of bridges in poor condition; from nearly 12% in 2018 to the national average of 7.5% in 2021. The state has used Ultra High-Performance Concrete (UHPC) in recent projects. However, the average National Bridge Inventory (NBI) bridge in Connecticut is 53 years old, compared to the national average bridge age of 44 years. CTDOT estimates an approximately $650 million per year gap between current bridge funding levels and long-term preservation and enhancement needs. Without additional revenue, the percentage of bridges in poor condition is expected to rise back to 10% by 2032.
Drinking Water (C) and Wastewater (C-)
Most Connecticut water treatment facilities were built in the 1970s and 1980s to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974. Many water systems have pipe networks dating back to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s and continue to be the weak link in providing reliable water service. As a result of aging infrastructure beyond its intended life, leaking watermains contribute to losses estimated between 15 to 20% of total water production. This is water taxpayers have already paid to have treated that never reaches their homes. Connecticut requires more than $4 billion to maintain existing infrastructure over the 20-year period of 2015-2034, but state and federal funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) has resulted in just $388 million through June 30, 2021. Although it will not fully close the gap, the federal infrastructure bill is expected to provide Connecticut drinking water systems an additional $445 million over the next five years.
Approximately 55% of the 3.6 million residents in Connecticut are served by sanitary sewers that flow to a wastewater treatment plant, meaning nearly half of residents rely on septic tanks. These systems were built prior to the knowledge of current climate impacts. Fifty of these treatment plants have been identified as “high-risk” for flooding during storm events. However, the state has been active in combatting combined sewer overflow (CSO) structures, which combine stormwater and wastewater systems into a single pipeline, and reducing CSO events, which occur when the system overflows during severe rain events. CSOs can result in contaminated local water supplies. Since the 1990s, Connecticut has spent over $1.2 billion eliminating over 130 CSO structures and reducing total CSO volume by approximately 22%.
The highest graded category in the report, Connecticut’s freight and passenger rail networks have benefitted over the past five years from upgraded facilities, improved safety, and invested in major infrastructure replacement and rehabilitation projects. Connecticut is part of the highest ridership passenger rail system in the nation, the Metro New York (MNR) network.
Train cars operating on CTDOT’s Hartford Line and Short Line East are all older than recommended and should be replaced. By contrast, most cars on the New Haven Line are newer and less costly to maintain. Bridge condition is also a major concern. Four moveable structures (draw, swing, or lift bridges) on the heavily traveled NHL are more than 125 years old. Furthermore, out of 195 rail bridges on the MNR system, 53 MNR bridges are rated in poor condition and 108 in fair condition.
The report also includes calls to action to raise the grades, which include:
- Increase investment: Connecticut has a substantial and widening gap between its long-term infrastructure investment objectives and expected revenues to fund these needs. Connecticut’s funding gap faces additional pressures due to the suspension of the state gas tax and 40-year high levels of inflation, reducing the benefit of additional revenues from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
- Improve resilience: Rising sea levels, increasing rainfall intensities and precipitation rates, combined with the extreme summer droughts, all pose challenges to the state’s infrastructure systems. Projects here must meet recent regulations requiring back-up power to water systems, emergency contingency plans, vulnerability assessments, as well as physical upgrades.
- Labor recruitment: Current labor shortfalls are impacting Connecticut’s public agencies, engineering firms, and contractors that are involved in maintaining, rehabilitating and building our infrastructure. Connecticut’s leaders must create and promote workforce development programs to increase the number of students pursuing engineering degrees.
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 Connecticut’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.