The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 23, 2018

Awful Michigan infrastructure earns state D+

By The Building Tradesman

Michigan earned a D+ grade earlier this month with the release of the 2018 "Report Card for Michigan's Infrastructure." To a lot of people replacing bent rims and flat tires on their car during this awful pothole season, even that grade sounds a little high. 

According to the report, "much of the state’s infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life and continues to threaten the state’s lakes, rivers, drinking water, and public health and safety. Thirteen categories of infrastructure were assessed by a group of expert civil engineers on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and of those 13, nine categories were in mediocre condition and four were in poor condition. Michigan’s infrastructure ranged from the highest grade of “C+” for Solid Waste to the lowest grade of “D-” for both "Roads" and "Stormwater."

The “D-” category grade, the report said, is reflective of the fact that just 18 percent of the state’s roads are in good condition. Also of concern is the state’s drinking water systems, which earned a “D.” In part that's due to a funding gap for maintenance and upgrades that may be as high as $563 million every year to upgrade tap water systems. And of course, there's the Flint water system catastrophe.

"A 'D+' is not a passing grade in school and is just as unacceptable for the condition of our state's infrastructure," said Mike Nystrom, executive vice president of the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association (MITA). “Our state has broadly ignored our infrastructure systems for decades. Michiganders experience our deteriorating infrastructure every day and these results are unfortunately not surprising.”

Beyond roads, bridges and waterworks, our state’s schools are also generally in need of a lot of work. The report said public school facilities in the state earned that familiar “D+,” and the 2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure found that nearly every school district in the state has aging facilities.

In addition to publishing the 2018 Report Card for Michigan’s Infrastructure, ASCE members made recommendations on how to improve the grades. Of course, they said the state needs to spend more money. They also said Michigan must support innovation,  and enact policies that facilitate high-quality data gathering and put asset management practices into place. 

The state also must better prioritize its needs, and then keep its citizens informed while urging them to be more vocal.

Michigan is keeping company with two of the nation’s poorest states: Arkansas and Louisiana join us with the worst D+ grades.