On Wednesday, the Utah Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released preliminary findings – including grades – from the 2020 Report Card for Utah’s Infrastructure, the Section’s first report card since 2015. Utah civil engineers gave 12 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of “C+”, tied only with Georgia for the highest cumulative grade in the nation. Civil engineers graded aviation (C), bridges (B+), canals (D+), dams (C+), drinking water (B-), hazardous waste (C+), levees (D-), roads (B+), solid waste (B-), stormwater (C+), transit (B+) and wastewater (C). The full report will be released in early January 2021.
Speakers for the event included K.N. Gunalan “Guna,” Ph.D., P.E., 2020 President, American Society of Civil Engineers; Craig Friant, P.E., Chair, 2020 Report Card for Utah’s Infrastructure; and Darren Burton, P.E., President, ASCE Utah Section.
Utah’s first-class transportation network can serve as an example for the rest of the country. Bridges, roads and transit each received scores of “B+” due to extensive funding and proper management of assets. Prioritizing surface transportation is a catalyst for economic growth, as seen by the state’s Tech Corridor Project which was built in conjunction with an innovative freeway design on I-10. With only 1.7% of the state’s bridges rated structurally deficient (the fourth-lowest percentage of any state) and only 4.2% of the state’s roadways considered to be in ‘poor’ condition, Utah’s surface transportation network is in great condition.
While Utah’s systems are in good condition, the state will need to continue investing in projects geared to support one of the fastest-growing populations in the country. Standing at 3.2 million residents now, Utah is expected to host more than 5 million residents by 2050 and its systems will need to be prepared for increased usage. In addition, the complications associated with Salt Lake City sitting along the Wasatch Fault Zone means earthquakes are always a threat to the region. Nearly 80% of the state’s residents live within the zone, so prioritizing resilience in future infrastructure design is imperative for the public’s safety and welfare.
In addition to a comprehensive analysis of 12 infrastructure categories, the Utah committee also developed recommendations for improving their grades, which include:
- Develop a statewide risk assessment framework that prioritizes funding for levee flood control and canal projects.
- Improve frequency of dam rehabilitation from 60 years to 25 years.
- Establish statewide guidelines for construction of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater systems that include seismic resiliency, low-impact development policies, and sustainable practices.
“As one of the fastest growing states in the nation, infrastructure is what drives our economy, connects us with family and keeps us safe,” said K.N. Gunalan “Guna,” Ph.D., P.E., 2020 President, American Society of Civil Engineers. “The ongoing pandemic has illuminated the importance of efficient infrastructure during a crisis. Our freight system helps deliver necessities to our homes and our water network supports public health. It is essential that we continue to modernize our transit, bridges, and water systems if we want to bring back jobs and preserve the good quality of life that Utahns expect.”