Louisiana's Infrastructure Receives Poor Grades from Civil Engineers

Baton Rouge – Most of Louisiana’s infrastructure has not been adequately maintained or updated, according to a comprehensive 18-month study by the Louisiana Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The study, named the Report Card for Louisiana’s Infrastructure, was released by the ASCE on Wednesday, January 18, 2012. More than 50 volunteers, mostly civil engineers from the public and private sectors across Louisiana, analyzed technical reports, inspection records, budgets, maintenance schedules and other documents to arrive at letter grades for nine areas of infrastructure. Modeled after the national report card, this is the first report of its kind issued in Louisiana.

Of the nine areas, only dams and solid waste receive above average grades, a B- and C+, respectively. The other areas and their grades are: aviation, C; bridges, D+; drinking water, D+; levees, C-; roads, D; wastewater, C-; and ports, C-.

“Louisiana citizens depend on these  public facilities daily to remain  mobile, to have access to  safe water, to be protected  from floods and to keep  safe,” said  Kam Movassaghi, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, executive director of the project team. “As civil engineers, we have a duty to let the public know that our infrastructure is failing to meet our current needs and future growth. With three D’s and three C-minuses in critical areas, we are rapidly approaching a period of being unable to sustain competitive economic growth.”

ASCE engineers also included 42 specific recommendations for the infrastructure areas. Many of the recommendations involve updated financing models for infrastructure development and maintenance, more public emphasis on conservation efforts and better planning.

ASCE developed the report card to create a fact-based assessment of the state’s infrastructure in one consolidated document with non-technical language that all citizens can easily understand. A main goal of the project is to give political leaders the ability to compare and contrast grades on different categories of infrastructure, to advise them on ways to improve grades, and to help them make better decisions on where to commit resources.

Dr. Movassaghi, a former Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development secretary, said the report card is a “factual, non-political portrait of the current condition of our infrastructure. Today, we are calling on our public officials, including Governor Jindal, his cabinet members and members of the Louisiana Legislature, to use this report as a starting point to initiate a plan on when and how we are going to address these critical needs. Time is passing rapidly, and we are approaching a tipping point.”

“For the first time, the citizens of Louisiana have a comprehensive assessment of their state’s critical infrastructure conditions, and sadly it’s not good news,” said Andrew W. Herrmann, P.E., SECB, F.ASCE, president of ASCE. “Louisiana deserves better, to keep their economy moving and compete with other states.”

The committee members studied the physical conditions of the infrastructure areas and analyzed funding sources and trends that impact maintenance and upgrades. In nearly every area, lack of funding was cited as a reason for poor physical conditions.

“We’re not saving money when we cut infrastructure investments; we’re just ensuring that today’s problems become tomorrow’s crises,” Dr. Movassaghi said. “In the long run, it is cheaper to make repairs and upgrades when they’re needed. Otherwise, a small and relatively inexpensive repair to a road, bridge, levee or drinking water system could become a catastrophic failure requiring massive future investments.”

Louisiana is the 25th state to produce an ASCE report card. Plans are to update the report card on a 5-year cycle to keep the public informed and to report changes in the state’s infrastructure over time.

The report card and its accompanying technical reports can be viewed at www.lasce.org.

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 140,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For more information, visit www.asce.org.

The Louisiana Section of ASCE was founded in 1914 and has more than 2,000 members in four branches: Acadiana, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Shreveport. Our Fundamental Canon: Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties.