Local News

N.C. Gets Poor Grades For Roads, Airports, Water Systems

Posted September 18, 2006

— North Carolina's airports, dams and roads received poor grades from the state's engineers Monday, but its infrastructure is still slightly better than the nation as a whole.

The state's existing system won't be able to support a population that is expected to grow by 3.5 million residents to 12 million by 2030, according to the state chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

  • American Society Of Civil Engineers' Report Card For N.C.

    "Crumbling infrastructure cannot support a healthy economy," said Ron Geiger, who led the group assembling the report card. He said he hopes the report card will make people "realize how the deteriorating condition of those systems compromises their ability to support the state's economy and protect the natural environment that makes North Carolina so attractive."

    North Carolina was given a grade of C-, barely better than the D given to the nation.

    Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, said lawmakers need to work together to address the state's infrastructure needs.

    "North Carolina citizens have got to come forward and say, 'We want these things,' and legislators need to develop a bipartisan effort to do what's right for North Carolina," Cole said. "We've got to quit fighting each other over the election process and do what's right for North Carolina."

    The state's dams and roads each received D's, while the airports received a D+. All three grades mirrored those in the same categories in the national report released last year.

    The report card found that among the 22 percent of the 5,250 dams in North Carolina classified as a high hazard, only one in five had an emergency action plan attached to it. None of the plans met federal guidelines.

    The poor state of North Carolina's roads causes $1.7 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs, and a $29 billion spending gap between transportation needs and revenues will only add to motorists' cost, according to the report.

    State Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said the spending gap is likely much larger than that estimate.

    "The $30 billion they told you about, I think, is grossly underestimated. In 2006 dollars, it's probably closer to $60 billion today," Tippett said.

    Members of the engineering group said it wasn't their intention to tell the state how to fund the improvements, only to point out what they think needs to be done.

    "We're the guys that look at the infrastructure and design it, and we build it and maintain it. We look to the policymakers to decide how to do some of these things," Grant Autry said.

    An estimated $588 million needs to be spent to improve airports, the report said.

    The report card gave North Carolina grades better than the nation's in four of eight categories evaluated in both assessments. They include wastewater and schools, which each received grades of C-, a C+ for drinking water and B- for rail transportation.

    The state's bridges received a C-. It was the only area where the state received a grade lower than the nation's.

    More than 40 percent of the state's 17,803 highway bridges were built at least 50 years ago. Nearly a third of the bridges are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The engineers recommend that governments work to reduce that to under 10 percent by 2020.

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