State’s engineers give Colorado near-failing grades on transportation infrastructure

Colorado’s engineering community was preaching to the choir as the state Legislature convened its first session of 2009 Wednesday. The engineers released a report card that gave the state’s transportation infrastructure a pitiful D+ and warned that it would drop to a near-failing D by 2010 if dramatic action wasn’t taken.

The Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the state an overall grade of C+ in 2008. The ASCE rated 13 infrastructure categories, including aviation, dam safety, energy, drinking water and solid waste management.

Developed by a group of infrastructure experts to update a similar report in 2003, the 2008 report card gave the state’s road system the lowest grade of the 13 categories and recommended the Legislature take steps to find permanent funding sources for more routine upgrades and expansions of the state’s crumbling road and bridge system.

Many state lawmakers are already on the record saying that finding funds for transportation infrastructure shortfalls will be a top priority this session, and Gov. Bill Ritter in December released a list of shovel-ready road projects (PDF) as part of the state’s wish list for president-elect Obama’s federal stimulus package.

“Addressing deferred maintenance is critical. Much of Colorado’s infrastructure is wearing out, neglected, or simply insufficient,” ASCE Colorado Section President Jeff May said in a release, adding that federal and state gasoline taxes to pay for road improvements have not been increased since the early 1990s.

The ASCE is urging the Legislature to enact a Colorado Infrastructure Improvement Act to establish a Colorado State Commission on Sustainable Infrastructure that would provide comprehensive infrastructure planning so that maintenance and upgrades become a matter of routine, like “an oil change” for your car, May said.

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