As North Carolinians, we owe our economic prosperity, public safety, and quality of life to the infrastructure that serves us every day. As stewards of that infrastructure, civil engineers are obliged to inform the public and policy makers about its condition and how best to make improvements.
What Will Raise North Carolina’s Infrastructure Grades?
ASCE’s key solutions may be ambitious and will not be achieved overnight, but Americans are capable of such real and positive change if we focus on solutions like these:
Promote sustainability-based philosophies for asset management.
Promote alternative financing and construction delivery methodologies.
Develop/increase dedicated funding plans.
Develop and maintain infrastructure ratings at state and local levels.
Aviation remains a crucial industry to North Carolina adding an estimated $26 billion to the state’s economy per year. North Carolina businesses rely on their ability to travel quickly where and when they to by airplane, either across the state or across the country. Civilian aircraft are North Carolina’s top export making up 3.7% annually. The NCDOT Division of Aviation estimates $763 million is needed to bring all airports in the system to a rating of good or better. At the present funding levels we are not meeting these needs.
Bridges are critical links in the state’s heavily traveled and aging highway infrastructure system. North Carolina is ranked 14th in the U.S. in bridge surface area to maintain. While the North Carolina Department of Transportation currently is funding a $200 million bridge improvement program, the quantity of aging structures simply outnumbers the funded bridges being repaired, rehabilitated, and replaced. NCDOT continually adjusts priority projects in an effort to maximize dollars spent throughout the state. This effort has had a positive impact on the overall bridge condition; however, this effort must continue in order to raise the health of state bridges to an acceptable level. This satisfactory bridge health level will require $281 million more per year in order to make significant strides in raising the grade for North Carolina’s bridges.
Renowned for its 326 miles of ocean shoreline, barrier islands, and 19 active inlet complexes, North Carolina’s beaches and inlets have tremendous economic value and serve as an important habitat for fish and wildlife resources. Maintenance plans are essential to have in place in the event of significant coastal storms. The presence of shoals and inlets functioning at significantly less than authorized depths are impacting the state. Continued erosion of federal and state funding for beaches and inlets has a significant impact on our coastal gems as economic engines and natural habitats.
Ten percent of North Carolina’s high hazard dams are deficient and only 34% have Emergency Action Plans. One-third of North Carolina’s dams are greater than 50 years old. There is no consistent federal or state funding for non-federal publicly owned dam rehabilitations. Additionally, the North Carolina Dam Safety Program’s state funding is less than the national average. The estimated cost to rehabilitate North Carolina’s non-federal dams is $1.9 billion.
North Carolina has over 530 public water systems which serve approximately 7.3 million North Carolinians which is about 75% of the state’s population. The majority of these systems are owned and operated by incorporated municipalities. There is a 20-year infrastructure need of $10 billion for North Carolina. These funds are needed to replace aging facilities, comply with mandated Safe Drinking water Act regulations and boost economic development.
The state’s traditional reliance on the major fuel sources – coal, petroleum, natural gas, and nuclear – remains intact, but in recent years there has been a meaningful shift to energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. North Carolina has affordable, diverse, and reliable energy sources. While there is still work to do in terms of energy efficiency, assuring a full range of energy diversity projects to all regions of the state, and to remain on the leading edge of anticipated changes in the energy sector, North Carolina has a solid foundation of energy infrastructure to meet its current and 20-year planning horizon needs.
The condition of North Carolina’s rail infrastructure had a direct impact on the state’s economy, with more than 10 million tons of good originating in North Carolina, and more than 53 million tons of goods terminating in the state in 2010. Currently, only 30 percent of the state’s short lines can accommodate the new, heavier rail cars being used, and it is estimated that freight rail investment needs over the next 25 years will total $545 million. In addition to the state’s freight rail needs, passenger rail modernization needs are almost reaching $3 billion over the next 25 years.
The scale of the state maintained highway network is vast with over 80,000 miles of roadway, and the NC DOT which manages about 75% of all roads has invested significantly into the state’s roads over the past four years. Currently, the state’s highways were rated in fair to good condition. The current economic circumstances and the trend of reducing the state transportation agency’s resources and personnel have been challenges to providing and maintain a sustainable quality of service, yet North Carolina’s highways are still function at a high level of efficiency and safety.
The physical condition of public school buildings is critical to the success of North Carolina’s students. However, over 58% of North Carolina schools will require renovations in the next 5 years. Approximately 10% of students in public schools are housed in mobile classrooms. The projected cost to meet facility needs for the next five years is approximately $8 billion.
Polluted storm water carries with it sediment and debris, excess nutrients, and even bacteria and other pathogens. While awareness of storm water treatment and quality is increasing, large gaps still exist between what needs to be done and how to implement these changes. Most of North Carolina’s population lives in communities that have no dedicated source of funding to improve storm water quality. Statewide sources of funding such as the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund are being reduced and communities will have fewer options when trying to address their storm water system needs. More stringent future storm water regulations, along with budget constraints, will make it even more difficult for many communities in North Carolina to make noticeable progress in this area.
North Carolina has documented a need of over $4 billion of additional wastewater infrastructure investment needs through 2030. These funds are needed to replace aging facilities, comply with mandated Clean Water Act regulations and keep pace with economic development. If continued funding needs are not met, the state risks reversing the improved public health and economic gain that have been realized the past 30 years.
A: EXCEPTIONAL, B: GOOD, C: MEDIOCRE, D: POOR, F: FAILING
Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation
Key Facts about North Carolina's Infrastructure
72 public-use airports
1,854 (10.19%) of the 18,183 bridges are structurally deficient
1,307 high hazard dams
Dams with EAPS
56% of the state regulated dams have an Emergency Action Plan
$16.72 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
38 sites on the National Priorities List
1,150 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 7th
68 miles of levees
9.7 million short tons of cargo in 2012, ranking it 34th nationally
$1.38 billion of unmet needs for its parks system
3,161 miles of freight railroads across the state, ranking 17th nationally
$336 per motorist per year in costs from driving on roads in need of repair
106,975 miles of Public Roads, with 9% in poor condition
$660 million gap in estimated school capital expenditures
70,550,942 annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems including bus, transit, and commuter trains
$5.29 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years
Our nation’s infrastructure problems are solvable if we have leadership and commit to making good ideas a reality. Raising the grades on our infrastructure will require that we seek and adopt a wide range of solutions.