Dams in Washington state fell since 2013 from a B to a B-minus, still the top performing category. Roads and transit each improved from D+ to C-, the 2019 state report says.
Even after multibillion dollar investments in light-rail and a floating highway, Washington state’s infrastructure as a whole deserves merely a C grade, says the latest report card released Wednesday by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“Population growth in the state is stress-testing the civil infrastructure we use every day,” said a statement by Richard Fernandez, an engineer for the city of Seattle, who chaired the evaluation committee. “We must continue to prioritize investment in these systems to protect public health and the environment.”
Washington state’s score exceeds a national D+ average the report by the engineers group assigned in 2017 to U.S. infrastructure, a grade often cited by politicians to support megaprojects or taxes. Several other states will be issued grades in early 2019, while the next national report card is due in 2021.
Dams in the state fell since 2013 from a B to a B-minus, still the top performing category. Roads and transit each improved from D+ to C-, the 2019 report says. Other categories are bridges and schools, each at C+ this year, drinking water and wastewater at C-, and stormwater the worst, at D+.
Stormwater is stressed because of the need to protect fish and wildlife in Puget Sound, the report says. Many pipes and ducts are beyond their design life, needing repair or replacement. In and around Seattle, rainstorms overwhelm the system, causing runoff and sewage to combine.
That was dramatically illustrated in 2017 when a deluge, judgment errors and equipment flaws caused the West Point sewage-treatment plant to spill millions of gallons of raw effluent into Puget Sound. King County is currently working on a $262 million treatment program to handle flows in the Duwamish River basin, the report emphasizes.
As for transportation, the report praises the Legislature’s Connecting Washington package, approved in 2015, that raised gasoline taxes 11.9 cents a gallon. Bridges have been strengthened and 92 percent of highway pavement is in fair or better condition, beating the 90 percent state goal. On the other hand, traffic delays worsened as highway miles traveled rose 4 percent from 2015-17.
Seattle leads the nation in transit ridership growth, and about 750,000 daily rides are provided by eight agencies in the urban region. Sound Transit opened the Capitol Hill, University of Washington and Angle Lake stations that doubled light-rail use in 2016. The report cites voter passage of the $54 billion ST 3 plan in 2016, while noting that many outlying and rural areas suffer mediocre transit access.
The report also evaluates challenges such as reducing road fatalities, attacking climate change and preparing for a major earthquake. Washington state and Seattle have declared “Vision Zero” goals to eliminate traffic casualties by 2030. But progress has stalled the last couple years; there were 536 fatal crashes statewide during 2017.