U.S. infrastructure reports on financial needs of major sectors

Updated 3:48 PM ET March 8, 2001

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Thursday issued a report saying the United States needed a $1.3 trillion infrastructure overhaul over five years.

Here are summaries of the report's key details in various infrastructure categories:

SCHOOLS

While President Bush has made education, including school construction and repair through broader use of tax-exempt financing, a major plank of his proposed 2002 budget, ASCE also recommended embracing and exploring other funding mechanisms.

Those included expansion of federal tax credits to support increased use of school construction bonds, increased federal grants for poor and needy school districts, and direct federal funding for school construction.

ROADS AND BRIDGES

Almost 60 percent of roads in urban and rural areas were in mediocre, fair or poor condition, the engineering analysis found, highlighting an alarming link between bad roads and traffic deaths.

The study also found that 29 percent of bridges were structurally deficient or obsolete as of 1998, the last year statistics were available.

The report said investment must increase by $27 billion annually to adequately improve conditions and called for full funding for the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) at approved levels as well as removal of the Highway Trust Fund from the unified federal budget.

AVIATION

ASCE'S report found that while the nation's aviation system was all but gridlocked, more than 70 percent of commercial traffic was concentrated in just 27 of the country's thousands of airports.

Those 27 airports had added just four new runways since 1995, the report added, saying attempts to expand or build new airports were stymied by local politics.

WATER AND SEWER SYSTEMS

The report echoed water and sewer authorities in noting "staggering" infrastructure funding needs over the next 20 years and a major shortfall between about $1 trillion in needs and available funding.

The Water Infrastructure Network, a coalition of local utilities, environmental and government group last month petitioned Congress to allocate $57 billion over five years for overhauls in the sector.

ASCE called for creation of a water and wastewater trust fund, whose monies were not to be diverted for non-water purposes as well as direct federal assistance, local issuance of revenue bonds and tax-exempt financing, public-private partnerships and state infrastructure banks.

ELECTRICITY

Citing numbers from the North American Electric Reliability Council, the report said some 10,000 megawatts (MW) of electric power generation capacity nationally would have to be added each year between now and 2008 to keep up with projected 1.8 percent annual growth.

Highlighting the role aging power transmission systems have played in California's continuing battle to avoid electricity shortages, it also recommended increased federal funding for such systems to maintain a reliable power supply.