Montana Infrastructure Earns Overall GPA of 'C'
Investment in rail pays off, but school infrastructure falls behind
News from the American Society of Civil Engineers
Helena, Mont. — The 2018 Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure was released by the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Montana Section, giving 10 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of “C.” The report includes an evaluation of the state’s bridges, drinking water, dams, energy, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, stormwater and wastewater. The last Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure was released in 2014.
Rail earned the highest grade of a “B” according to the report, highlighting recent private and public investments in Montana’s railways and a rail network across the state which is in good condition and focused on moving freight. In contrast, Montana’s schools received the lowest grade of a “D-.” The average age of a school facility in Montana is 53 years old, and while funding has been set aside for crucial safety repairs, schools still face funding gaps and are struggling to provide students with a safe, healthy, and productive educational environment.
Roads earned a “C-” and bridges earned a “C” in the report card. Montana’s roads are among the least crowded in the country, but nearly half are in poor to mediocre condition. Seven point three (7.3) percent of Montana’s total bridge deck area is rated as poor/structurally deficient. The state legislature passed a gas tax in 2017 to provide the state with additional funding for maintenance, preservation, and rehabilitation of transportation infrastructure. Projects using this additional revenue are currently underway.
“Making sustainable investments in critical infrastructure and putting shovels in the ground is essential to our continued economic growth and to the creation and support of good-paying jobs for Montanans. It’s why I have proposed investments in projects in rural and urban communities all across the state. I hope the Montana Legislature will recognize the need for these projects, as emphasized by this report card, and work with me to make certain of a thriving economy and strong quality of life for communities, businesses and residents,” said Governor Steve Bullock.
Of note, the report finds:
Montana will need $1.15 billion in funding for identified immediate water infrastructure improvements over the next 20 years.
Montana produces about 27,800 MWh of electricity annually and consumes only 13,900 MWh. The excess power is exported to the West Coast.
Montana has some of the least crowded roadways in the country and efficiently moves $101 billion in goods by truck and millions of travelers by car each year.
Rough roads cost each Montanan approximately $385 per year in operating costs.
Solutions to address the state’s infrastructure needs include increasing infrastructure investment and exploring innovative funding solutions, and finding a mechanism to collect revenue from visitors to the state. Also recommended was building resilient infrastructure to prepare for the state’s growing and changing population .
“The results of the 2018 Report Card for Montana’s Infrastructure show us that while some categories, like wastewater, have improved since the release of the 2014 Report Card, many areas of infrastructure that we use every day need additional attention and funding,” said Shari Eslinger, P.E., Chair, Montana Infrastructure Report Card Committee, President, ASCE Montana Section. “Fortunately, Montana’s legislature voted to increase the gas tax in 2017 to help the state qualify for matching federal funds. We look forward to seeing the positive impacts this additional investment will have on our transportation system.”
“To continue an upward trend in Montana’s economy and booming tourism industry, we must continue to prioritize infrastructure and adapt our systems for the future in all corners of the state,” said Dan Karlin, P.E., Release and Outreach Chair, Montana Infrastructure Report Card Committee.
The report graded ten categories as follows: bridges (C), drinking water (C-), dams (C-), energy (C), rail (B), roads (C-), schools (D-), solid waste (B-), stormwater (D) and wastewater (C-).
A grade of C is mediocre and requires attention. A grade of D is poor and at risk.