The American Society of Civil Engineers 2012 “report card” gave the Gem State a nearly failing grade point average of 1.67. “The problems our nation’s infrastructure faces are significant, and that’s evident in Idaho,” said ASCE president-elect President Greg E. DiLoreto in March, when the report was released. “In the Rocky Mountain West, a road out of commission means that freight can’t make their deliveries and your neighbors must take long detours, or perhaps can’t go to their destinations. These transportation systems move Idaho’s citizens and goods, as well as support local communities. Investment is important to keep the state’s economy moving.”
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While the report focuses on everything from aviation to wastewater, bridges, highways and dams were of particular concern in Idaho. The state’s C- rating actually beats the national score, a D, with $2.2 trillion in infrastructure needs across the country.
Below are a few excerpts from the Report Card:
The ASCE gives Idaho a D+ for bridges. On the state highway system, 53 bridges are considered “structurally deficient” and 203 “functionally obsolete.” Of 2,371 bridges on the local highway system, 288 were graded as “structurally deficient.” Another 163 were “functionally obsolete.”
The report criticized Idaho’s bridge funding, in particular:
Over the last 30 years, the Idaho Transportation Department has constructed approximately 15 bridges per year. At that funding level, approximately $16 million per year for those last 30 years, it would take 120 years to replace the existing bridges on the state highway system, with most bridges designed to last between 40 and 60 years, which would require them to last more than double their design life, if they were all new bridges.
While the engineering firms that authored the ASCE report have a financial stake in infrastructure improvements, the findings on bridges echo a 2010 U.S. General Accountability Office report. The GAO found that 1 in 4 bridges across the nation is either deficient or obsolete.
Idaho state highways received an overall grade of D-. Of the 12,190 lane miles managed by the Idaho Transportation Department, 13 percent were graded “deficient.” With a projected maintenance budget of $100 million annually, state highways would be 28 percent “deficient” in 2021.
Idaho dams received an overall grade of C. Engineers listed 9 of 569 Idaho dams as unsatisfactory, including 2 in high hazard areas. Statewide, 13 percent of dams operate without an emergency evacuation plan. According to the Army Corps of Engineers National Inventory of Dams, 5 Idaho dams in high-risk areas lack emergency evacuation plans. A dam failure above Boise at Lucky Peak or Arrowrock would likely flood the city from the Boise depot to Hill Road—inundating half of the Boise Valley.
Other grades for Idaho infrastructure include:
|Category||2012 Idaho Grade||Comments|
|Aviation||C||Idaho has more aviation services per capita than most Americans, however, incompatible land uses around airports reduce their function and value.|
|Bridges||D+||Many bridges are reaching the limits of their life expectancy. Current funding levels are far outpaced by the replacement need, particularly for critical bridges.|
|Dams||C||The average date of construction completion for Idaho dams is 1952. As a result, funding needed to service, maintain, repair or replace dams will continue to increase at an accelerated pace.|
|Drinking Water||C+*||Repair and replacement of distribution lines is well below ideal rates. Some municipalities do not have significant and active source protection programs.|
|Energy||C+||Energy prices remain low in Idaho, but as Idaho continues to grow, so does the demand for energy. Transmission is increasingly vital.|
|Local Highways||C-||Most of the local highways across Idaho meet their capacity needs, but funding shortfalls and limitations will hamper improvements.|
|Rail||C+ (Freight) / D- (Passenger)||Private companies continue to invest in rail improvements for Idaho’s critical freight rail system. Passenger rail options are limited across the state.|
|Schools||C-||School facilities continue to age and overcrowding will continue to challenge school districts. The lack of recent assessment prevents a complete understanding of the growing needs.|
|State Highways||D+||The existing budget for the state highway system is well below the need and Idaho’s reliance on federal funding will limit our ability to meet future needs.|
|Transit||D||Transit in Idaho is safe and relatively efficient, but lacks the accessibility and funding to meet the needs.|
|Wastewater||B-*||Replacement and repair of collection pipelines is not keeping pace with the ageing infrastructure. Many wastewater systems have not been video inspected in the last 10 years.|
*Drinking Water and Wastewater grades are based on survey results.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.