So the preliminary report is out, and ASCE has graded our infrastructure at a “D” level again. Of course, this is a more a D- than a straight D. Apparently, the infrastructure system is dangerously close to outright failure. I disagree with this assessment, and even the idea of making the assessment, as noted in my previous post. But what are some other engineers saying? I love reading some of the comments on the ASCE Govt. Relations official blog….
David on 28 Jan 2009 at 6:00 pm
Every time ASCE updates their “Report Card,” I shrink in embarrassment for being a member of this organization. What an outrageous exercise! Couched in the language of an academic grading scheme, our ASCE leaders wildly shoot from the hip with purely political motives. They say our infrastructure is falling apart — The Sky is FALLING, they cry. This false alarm has no bearing in reality. Our water supply is a D-? Serving 100’s of millions, our US water supply has an outstanding record of public health. When one ponders the outbreaks of disease in our East Coast cities during the 1800s that resulted from poor drinking water quality, one realizes that modern civil engineers have made magnificent contributions to public health. Whether it is worth an “A” or a “B” I would not care to argue, but to give our system a D- is to insult our own profession. Furthermore, I would argue, that our ASCE Report Card undermines a critical plank of our professional platform, that is, Integrity. Civil engineers are to be professionals of integrity. Our leaders show little integrity in publishing this shabby, unscientific, alarmist, fear-mongering report.
Jay on 28 Jan 2009 at 7:16 pm
This report card is interesting, and may in fact be accurate reflection of our nation’s infrastructure. My question is where are the details? This report card should be the summation of some 1,000 page report that contains details on weakness, flaws, and failings of specific pieces of infrastructure.
Without more details, people are going to accuse you of scaremongering. Afterall, your members would be the most direct beneficiaries of a trillion dollar investment. Personally, I think your report is probably more accurate as opposed to less, but if you can’t back it up with detailed data and very specific priorities you can’t reasonably expect to get funded. And that would be a terrible thing.
The full report won’t be ready for a few more weeks/months. But they desperately needed something to have ready that will impact current debate on the topic in Congress. Maybe we should remind them of their obligation to “issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.” Personally, I can’t understand how these letter grade assessments could be considered objective. What is going on here?
Actually, I find the CBS news article a useful read. A summary from Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy professor Granger Morgan:
But just because the federal government is handing out lots of money and society’s physical backbone needs plenty of repairs, that doesn’t automatically mean the government should spend most of its dollars on things such as new roads and power plants, Morgan said. Often, building newer roads doesn’t fix congestion, yet building better public transit would pay off more, he said. And spending on energy efficiency more than physical power plants makes sense, he added.
One really needs to make these choices on a bit of solid engineering economics as opposed to emotion and rhetoric,” Morgan said. “We’ve got an enormous pent-up need. The only message is: `Let’s be careful to the extent that we can in the manner we spend the money.
Since ASCE is so hell-bent on muddying the waters when it comes to infrastructure design/construction and the economy, here is a good article from Time magazine that has some opinions on that too.
And finally, here’s a press release from the National Association of Realtors (yes, even they have an opinion on the infrastructure issue). They have polled ~1,000 people and have concluded that most people support fixing what we got rather than building new stuff. I concur.