The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently released its latest series of state infrastructure report cards. The organization and its local chapters grade states on a span of public infrastructure elements ranging from airports and roads to drinking water and solid waste disposal. ASCE's last report was issued in 2011.
While New Hampshire's grades are generally in the C and D range (in line with most other states), there are a few bright spots. For example, twenty-five municipally-owned bridges and 16 state-owned structures were eliminated from the so-called "Red List" since ASCE's 2011 report.
Red list bridges are considered to be structurally deficient or in poor condition and require frequent inspection and maintenance. Of the 3,482 bridges in the state, 13%, or 492 currently fall into the red list category. This compares to 9.1% nationally.
The report states that nearly 80% of all state-owned bridges were constructed prior to 1980. More than 650 of these bridges are over 75 years of age. And between 2010 and 2015, the average age of state-owned bridges increased from 52 to 56 years. A typical bridge design life is 50 years, and therefore, the average bridge in New Hampshire now has reached or exceeded its planned functional life.
The report rates the condition of bridges nationally as C+ with New Hampshire's rated at C-.
Conditions of roads improving
On the roads and highways front, the report notes that New Hampshire has seen an increase in vehicle miles traveled since 2011 and large investments have been made in the Interstate 93 corridor and Spaulding Turnpike.
Currently 47% of the state's road network (federal, state and municipal) is rated in good condition, 24% in fair condition, 22% in poor condition and 7% in very poor condition --which indicates some improvement since ASCE's last report.
ASCE rates the condition of roads nationally as D, with New Hampshire's rated at C-.
New Hampshire passed a 4.2-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase in 2014, which helps to offset some of the costs from 20 years of deferred investment. However, the report points out that as vehicles become more energy efficient and are able to drive more miles per gallon, gasoline taxes should realistically be increased to keep up with road maintenance and construction.
While not in the report, it should be noted that Governor Sununu proposed using surplus state revenues (after topping off the Rainy Day Fund) to create an "Infrastructure Revitalization Fund" to provide grants to local communities for road, bridge, drinking water and school building costs -- many of the areas that the report indicates that the state needs to address. Both the NH House and Senate also believe the state needs to increase its investment in infrastructure.
To review ASCE's New Hampshire infrastructure report card: