Twin Ports civil engineers grade region’s infrastructure a ‘C’

The Duluth Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers released the 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure today, giving seven categories of infrastructure an overall grade of ‘C’.

The report includes an evaluation of the region’s aviation, bridges, drinking water, ports, roads, solid waste and wastewater.

Aviation and bridges both received the highest grade of ‘B-,’ while drinking water received the lowest grade of ‘D.’ This is the first Infrastructure Report Card for this region.

“Infrastructure is the backbone of our region’s economy. The Duluth and Superior ports move 35 million tons of cargo a year, a vital link in the supply chain of our nation and a local job creator,” said Craig Bursch, chair of the 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure. “We developed the Infrastructure Report Card to evaluate where progress has been made in the region, but also where we need to prioritize infrastructure investments to support our industries and maintain the high quality of life we enjoy.”

The report graded seven categories as follows: aviation (B-), bridges (B-), drinking water (D), ports (C+), roads (D+), solid waste (C+), and wastewater (C+).

The report finds that while the Duluth region has had recent infrastructure successes in the transportation sector, aging infrastructure and lack of funding for maintenance and upgrades are issues for other sectors such as drinking water and wastewater. Findings include:

In the City of Duluth, between 30% and 40% of the 400 miles of wastewater pipes are between 60 and 100 years and needs to be replaced.

Much of the region’s drinking water infrastructure is beyond its useful service life. To keep up with pipe replacement, the City of Duluth needs to replace 4.33 miles of pipe per year at $4.33 million, much more than the current $2.5 million budget for pipe replacement.

Seven percent of the 1,529 bridges in the Twin Ports Area are structurally deficient, lower than the national average.

Road conditions in the City of Duluth are in poor condition, but the city’s request to the state legislature for a 0.5% dedicated sales tax for streets offers an attempt to close the funding gap.

Investment in the Twin Ports Area airport infrastructure continues at a steady pace with pavement maintenance and commercial airport terminal building updates in Brainerd, Duluth International, Falls Regional and Range Regional Airports.

About 35 million tons of cargo move through the port annually, which is more than 20% of all tons moved by ship on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway combined. Although capacity is sufficient, the ability of each facility to secure funding to improve condition is highly dependent on which state the dock is located in.

Solid waste abatement programs and solid waste management facilities are adequately funded, in good condition and have capacity for current and projected demand. However, availability of that capacity is a concern beyond 2022.

The 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers of the state to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their community. By using school report card letter grades, civil engineers used their expertise to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis.

ASCE regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of ‘D+’ in 2017.

The full 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area’s Infrastructure is available at