Civil Engineers’ Report Card Assesses Condition of Kentucky’s Infrastructure
Drinking Water, Wastewater and Schools Among the Categories Most Improved
Louisville, KY. (February 11, 2011) Kentucky’s water, wastewater and schools have shown marked improvement since 2003, but bridges and roads are not faring as well, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Kentucky section. Taken as a whole, however, Kentucky’s overall, average grade “C” is above the national average as compiled by the ASCE, “D.”
Of the 12 categories, ten received a grade equal to or better than in 2003—the last time such a report was undertaken. Grades ranged from a high of B for drinking water to a low of D for bridges and roads. Drinking water, wastewater, and schools showed significant improvement, with grades of B (C; 2003) C- (D-;2003) and B- (D-;2003), respectively.
Louisville Water Company President Greg Heitzman said there are multiple reasons for the higher grade in the drinking water category. Since 2000, the state of Kentucky has conducted a complete inventory of water systems in the state. The process involved a review of the unserved and underserved areas—where service levels are inadequate—throughout the state, and programs have since been put in place to close these gaps. “Approximately $1 billion has been invested through the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority using low-interest loans and legislator grants to fund drinking water improvement projects,” said Heitzman. “Also, service levels have moved up to 97% percent of the state. Lastly, the compliance rates with drinking water regulations have improved over the past 3 years.”
In the category of schools, where the grade has risen from a D- in 2003 to a B-, Kentucky’s total inventory is in better condition than the national average, with about 12% of the facilities needing major renovation or replacement. As Kentucky continues to grow and develop, the demand on the public school system will increase, the report said.
Kentucky bridges, meanwhile, are trending in a negative direction. In 2003, the last time Kentucky’s bridges were evaluated, a grade of C- was given, based in large measure on progress that had been made over the preceding seven years addressing the backlog of deficient bridges that existed in Kentucky’s inventory. “Unfortunately, the ground that was made up prior to 2003 appears to have been lost over the intervening seven years (2003-2010), “ said Clarence Krebs, Chair of the Bridge Committee. As in 2003, Kentucky lags the national average, but the gap between Kentucky and the national average has widened significantly since then, placing the condition of Kentucky bridges in the lowest quartile of the nation. The most recent national grade for bridges was a C.
“People should realize that the ‘D’ grade awarded to bridges is not a reflection of the safety of individual bridges or the bridge system; in fact, unsafe bridges are taken out of service and were not included in the study,” Krebs said. “Rather, the grade reflects the current capacity of Kentucky bridges to support the demands of inter-and intra-state commerce and the personal travel demands of Kentucky residents and guests compared with other states and territories and with the condition of the Kentucky inventory in 2003.”
The report card is important because it provides data that allows key stakeholders to have a clearer picture of the strengths and shortcomings of the commonwealth’s infrastructure. “One of the problems with infrastructure is that it has always been there for us and is therefore easy to take for granted,” said Thomas D. Rockaway, Professor of Civil Engineering at The University of Louisville and the Chairman of the Infrastructure Report Card. “It’s important for us as a community to evaluate these assets on an ongoing basis to ensure that the appropriate resources are allocated to their maintenance.”
The 2011 Report Card, which took nearly six months to complete, was developed by an advisory council of more than 27 engineers and volunteers representing each of the infrastructure categories, as well as a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines. Each category was evaluated on the basis of capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation, maintenance, public safety and resilience.
Founded in 1852, ASCE represents more than 140,000 civil engineers worldwide, and is America’s oldest national engineering society. The Kentucky section includes more than 1,000 of these engineers and was established in 1936.