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The Birmingham Section started 2015 with a political reception at the Murray Building Co. jobsite at the old Merita Bread Bakery. More than 150 members were in attendance with city and state officials. Everyone enjoyed a tour of the site as well as barbecue from Joe McNabb and Hendrix Chevrolet.

Alabama Receives Grade of “C-” in Inaugural Infrastructure Report Card

The Alabama Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers today released its inaugural 2015 Report Card for Alabama’s Infrastructure, grading 11 categories of the state’s infrastructure, resulting in an overall grade point average of “C-.” The grades ranged from the highest grade of “B” for Energy to the grade of “Incomplete” for Dams. The category of Dams received a grade of Incomplete because Alabama does not have a dam safety program to provide a comprehensive list of the state’s dams’ location and category; it is the only state in the nation to not have a safety program of this type.

The 2015 Report Card for Alabama’s Infrastructure finds that much of the state’s infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life and falling into a state of disrepair, yet plans and funding to address these aging infrastructure assets at the local and state levels fall significantly short of the needs. Of note:

• Only an estimated 2% of all known dams in Alabama are being inspected for safety, maintained, and have emergency action plans in place for use in the case of an incident or failure. Without a dam safety program, communities that live under dams may not be aware of their risk, and emergency action plans for high hazard dams may not be in place to mitigate property damage and save lives in the case of a breach or failure.

• The majority of the state’s drinking water infrastructure was installed from the 1960s to the 1980s and operating beyond their useful design life.

• 1 in 3 wastewater utility providers statewide report having inadequate rate structures to cover normal operating expenses.

• Septic systems are commonly used in more rural parts of Alabama; 25% of the estimated 850,000 on-site septic systems are in failing or failed condition and could be polluting the community’s groundwater.

• Alabama has 1,388 structurally deficient bridges, ranking 15th most in the country, with many of these being bridges funded and maintained locally.

• Nearly 50% of interstate and state highways are in fair, poor, or very poor condition. Driving on rough and congested roads costs the average Alabama driver at least $300 a year in extra vehicle repairs.

• Much of the inland waterway lock and dam infrastructure within the state is breaking down and has passed the 50 year design service life or is approaching it. As an example, Coffeeville Lock and Dam has a throughput of 10 million tons in spite of vessel delay rates and durations in excess of 90% and 150 hours.

“Alabama has an opportunity to fix what’s broken and grow the state’s economy by making investments to improve our infrastructure. We can rebuild our roads, make our bridges safer, and prevent costly water main breaks—all things that will save us money in the long run,” said Shelia Montgomery-Mills, chair of the Report Card for Alabama’s Infrastructure. “Alabamans pride themselves on being self-sufficient in all aspects of our lives—and improving our infrastructure needs to be part of that philosophy.”

“Alabama shouldn’t continue to be unaware of the location, category, and condition of all the dams in the state. As the population continues to grow, now is the time to implement a dam safety program, that will develop a complete inventory of the state’s dams and ensure that all high hazard dams have Emergency Action Plans,” said Dusty Myers, president-elect of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials.

Among the recommendations to raise the grades:

• Pass legislation to create a dam safety program that creates an inventory, establishes emergency action plans, and uses periodic safety inspections to keep communities safe.

• Prioritize routine maintenance to save money and prevent emergency repairs across all infrastructure types.

• Increase replacement of structurally deficient bridges, which are mostly owned and operated locally.

• Create state funding strategies that recognize the importance of functional drinking water, stormwater, and sewer infrastructure to support the economic development of Alabama.

• Utilize technology and new methods to help ease congested areas, build more efficiently, and monitor infrastructure conditions.

A team of professional engineers from across Alabama assessed the 11 categories of infrastructure to reach the cumulative grade of “C-.” The categories include Aviation (B-), Bridges (C-), Dams (Incomplete), Drinking Water (C+), Energy (B), Inland Waterways (D+), Ports (B-), Rail (B-), Roads (D+), Stormwater & Wastewater (C-), and Transit (D).

The Alabama Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and politicians of the state to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their community. By using school report card letter grades, civil engineers have used their expertise to condense complicated data into easy-to-understand analysis.

State level report cards are modeled after the national 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of D+.

To view the full report, visit infrastructurereportcard.org/alabama.