Florida Civil Engineers Give the State’s Infrastructure a “C” Grade

Nov. 3, 2021
Grades across 14 categories range from a “B+” for solid waste to a “D-” for dams
American Society Of Civil Engineers Logo 2009 Present 6179ae87e41e9

TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) today released the 2021 Report Card for Florida’s Infrastructure. Florida civil engineers gave 14 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘C’ meaning the state’s infrastructure is in mediocre condition. Florida has consistently maintained its infrastructure using innovative funding mechanisms and asset management strategies, keeping bridges, ports, and other systems in impressive conditions despite hosting one of the fastest-growing populations and some of the nation’s most severe weather. However, some sectors such as dams and schools have fallen behind, and additional steps must be taken to ensure the state’s infrastructure is prepared for continued climate impacts. Civil engineers graded aviation (C+), bridges (B), coastal areas (C-), dams (D-), drinking water (C), energy (C+), levees (D+), ports (B), roads (C+), schools (D+), solid waste (B+), stormwater (C-), transit (C) and wastewater (C). 

“This report demonstrates that Florida has done a commendable job across its infrastructure networks preparing for climate impacts and maintaining systems that are coping with growing usage due to tourism and population growth,” said Kathi Ruvarac, P.E., chair, 2021 Report Card for Florida’s Infrastructure. “We hope legislators and all Floridians utilize this tool to spark changes where needed and encourage continued growth where we have succeeded.”

Florida’s surface transportation sectors – including roads (C+), bridges (B), aviation (C+), ports (B) and transit (C) – comprise one of the highest-performing infrastructure networks in the nation, despite seeing an uptick in 2.7 million residents over the past decade and increasingly severe storms battering assets. Only 31% of Florida’s major roadways are in poor condition, compared to 42% nationally. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has utilized asset management practices to maintain existing infrastructure before implementing capacity projects for both roads and bridges.

Nearly 65% of Florida bridges are in ‘good’ condition compared to the national value of 45%, while only 3% of Florida’s bridges are in ‘poor’ condition compared to more than 7% nationally. The state’s motor fuels tax – which is used to fund road and bridge maintenance and expansion – has been indexed to adjust with inflation and the state continues to increase transportation-related funding; in fiscal year 2021-2022, the state budget allocates $10.3 billion to transportation infrastructure, up from $9.7 billion the previous year. Despite these strong metrics, from 2017 to 2020 the percentage of Florida’s bridges in ‘good’ condition decreased. The same trend is seen across the United States, but Florida’s change over time occurred more quickly. Florida also reported a slight uptick in bridges considered in ‘poor’ condition from 1.9% in 2016 to 3.2% in 2020.

“FDOT places a very high priority on the maintenance of our facilities,” says Secretary David Gwynn, FDOT District 7. “We are proud of the high ratings our roadways, bridges and other features receive year after year. Proper maintenance also plays a big role in our Target Zero goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on our roadways.”

Aviation (C+) and ports (B) have also performed well. Florida’s airports support more than 170 million annual passengers due to a world-renowned tourism industry, more than 43,000 jobs and $175 billion in economic activity, all sharp rises over the course of a decade. The state’s 15 seaports generate nearly 900,000 jobs and $117.6 billion in economic value. Growing tourism and a projected 2.1% annual growth in air cargo is testing Florida’s airport capacity, but the major airports are all making significant investments to increase capacity. For ports, Florida invested more than $1.19 billion in improvements across all its seaports from FY 2011 to 2018, helping ensure the ports are ready for the future, including the deepening of channels and harbors to accommodate increasingly popular large vessels.

Florida’s dams (D-), which had the lowest grade in the report, are lacking in up-to-date data and only 41% of them have an Emergency Action Plan, compared with 81% nationally. Similar to dams, only 40% of Florida’s 90 levee (D+) systems have been assessed for risk, despite their role in protecting nearly $100 billion in property and 1.6 million residents.   

The states’ energy (C+) and solid waste (B+) sectors have implemented innovative practices to improve their efficiency and reliability, which is especially prudent in a state so heavily invested in and dependent upon its natural environment. State utilities are burying thousands of miles of distribution lines and investing billions to harden their grid to protect from severe weather. As a result, Florida was among the five areas in the nation with the shortest annual outage duration totaling less than 90 minutes. Meanwhile, Floridians produce nearly triple the national per capita average of solid waste per day, thanks in large part to tourists, but the state recycled 42% of its Municipal Solid Waste, well above the 2018 national average of nearly 24%. Florida has the second-largest waste-to-energy conversion rate in the country, generating roughly five million megawatt-hours of energy from biomass sources in 2019.

Drinking water (C), stormwater (C-) and wastewater (C) systems are collectively succeeding in handling growing capacity needs. In addition, Florida is a national leader in the reuse of reclaimed water, with reclaimed water projects making up 35% of all water supply projects. However, severe weather and added capacity are putting strain on the state’s aging wastewater facilities, leading to a higher number of sanitary sewer overflows, which can cause spills and backups that threaten public health. In addition, only approximately 35% of the state’s local jurisdictions reported having a stormwater program to fund and maintain the infrastructure, and 27% of the stormwater utilities stated that operation and maintenance capabilities were adequate only to meet the area’s most urgent needs, while 7% were not adequate to meet urgent needs.

The report also includes calls to action to raise the grades, such as:

  • Continue leadership and investment in critical transportation and freight sectors to strengthen the economy and public safety.
  • Improve routine data collection and assessment in Schools, Dams, and Levees sectors to expand the public and lawmakers’ access to information to inform safety and funding decisions.
  • Expand the application of new approaches, materials, and technologies across Florida’s infrastructure sectors to improve its ability to withstand or quickly recover from natural or man-made hazards.

The Report Card was created as a public service to citizens and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card-style letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Florida’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure an overall grade of ‘C-’ in 2021.  

To view the report card and all 14 categories, visit https://infrastructurereportcard.org/state-item/florida/.