Overall condition of roads and bridges better than national average— with bridges among best in the nation, but aging systems and dense population pose challenges
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The 2020 Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure was released today by the Maryland Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), giving 12 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a ‘C,’ an improvement from a ‘C-’ in the 2011 Report Card. Graded categories include aviation (B-), bridges (B), dams (C-), drinking water (C), energy (C-), ports (B-), rail (C+), roads (C), solid waste (B-), stormwater (C), transit (D+) and wastewater (C+).
“Here in Maryland, we’re focusing on the issues that affect every resident from Cumberland to Annapolis to Ocean City: paving our roads, fixing our bridges, modernizing stormwater plans, and more, which is evident in the improving grades,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md). “I’m particularly relieved to see resiliency stressed in this report, as Marylanders have witnessed the dangerous consequences of extreme weather and we know we must make our water infrastructure, transit system and more resilient to protect against increasing flooding and other catastrophic events.”
Maryland’s surface transportation network, particularly bridges, has seen improvements since the 2011 report card. Bridges received the highest grade of (B) among the 12 infrastructure categories included in the report. Of Maryland’s 5,356 bridges, 5.1% are deemed structurally deficient, up from nearly 7% in 2012 and significantly higher than the national average of 8.4%. Other major factors for the grade include the strong efforts to ensure resiliency of its bridges, robust bridge inspection program and dedication of resources to maintain and modernize bridge conditions throughout the state. However, 25% of the state’s 5,356 bridges are over 60 years old and are threatened by scour due to rising sea levels on Maryland’s coasts. An estimated $623 million is needed to fix bridges currently listed in poor condition. The condition of Maryland’s roadways (C) has also modestly improved since 2011, and approximately 80% of pavement condition for county and city roads is in fair to very good condition.
Transit received the lowest grade (D+) in the report, on par or above the national average. Like many states, Maryland’s transit network faces a $2 billion maintenance backlog due to aging and outdated infrastructure. While Maryland continues to embark on planning efforts for transit improvements and expansions— such as the Purple Line, which is scheduled to open in 2022— there has been an eight-year constant decline in ridership, which is indicative of systematic issues from budget shortfalls to a lack of on-time performance between bus and rail programs. Only 20% of funding comes from fares, compared to the national average of 32%, and the report recommends identifying funding mechanisms such as fare increases to cover the shortfall needed to achieve a state of good repair.
The state has also taken steps to modernize its freight infrastructure and connections. As the 11th largest U.S. port by tons and 9th by dollar value of freight moved, the Port of Baltimore has been ranked as one of the most efficient ports by the Journal of Commerce three years in a row, further incentivizing businesses to go through the port. However, despite being a truck and rail dependent port, the Port of Baltimore is lacking dedicated truck routes and is in need of expanded rail access to reduce backups, each of which are complicated by challenges associated with expansion.
The Report Card also included categories related to water and water resources. Since 2010, the Maryland Department of Environment has been upgrading its outdated stormwater management plan to include innovative solutions and management efforts. However, many of the state’s watersheds drain into the Chesapeake Bay, which has seen its water quality decline for decades. Water pollution treatment has not received the necessary funding to combat the decline. Wastewater has found innovative methods of funding to ensure all 67 of the state’s wastewater treatment facilities utilize enhanced nutrient removal (ENR) technology, including the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) – a state grant funding program paid for by a $5 per household ”flush tax.” The BRF provides $75 million annually to Maryland’s wastewater treatment plants.
An area that needs attention is Maryland’s 539 dams – the grade decreased from a ‘C’ in 2011 to a ‘C-’ in 2020. Approximately 130 of those dams were built during the 1960s and 1970s with approximately 45% of dams considered to be high-hazard or significant hazard dams. In 2019, the Task Committee of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimated approximately $218 million is needed to repair these dams located and regulated in Maryland.
The 2020 Maryland Report Card also includes policy recommendations to raise the grades.
“We are proud that Maryland has made infrastructure a priority and the effects can be felt in our economy,” Carrie Nicholson, P.E., Past-President, ASCE Maryland Section and Chair, 2020 Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure. “We can’t allow complacency to set in. Our transit system, dams, drinking water systems and energy grid all require attention. If we want to remain competitive, we need to maintain focus on modernizing the state’s infrastructure.”
Recommendations to raise the grades include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Dedicate and fully fund state and/or federal programs/grants and/or low-interest loans for the rehabilitation and repair of high-hazard and structurally-hazard dams.
- Maryland is a national leader in sustainable watershed practices and resilient planning. Maintaining this edge will require extensive cross-collaboration among water and wastewater utilities and state and private infrastructure owners. Cross-collaboration can be incentivized with state grant funding.
- Continue with strategic infrastructure planning to help accommodate future population growth and increasing freight volumes. A holistic approach to the movement of people and goods will help ensure Maryland remains economically competitive and an attractive place to live well into the future.
- Incorporate the impacts of climate variations and storm events into the design, operation, maintenance, and expansion of all types of infrastructure to improve community resilience – reducing the time and extent that households, businesses, and critical services are affected during and after natural and man-made disruptions.
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 letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Maryland’s infrastructure network. ASCE State and Regional Infrastructure Report Cards are modeled after the national Infrastructure Report Card, which gave America’s infrastructure a grade of ‘D+’ in 2017.
A full copy of the Report Card for Maryland’s Infrastructure is available at www.InfrastructureReportCard.org/Maryland.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. ASCE works to raise awareness of the need to maintain and modernize the nation’s infrastructure using sustainable and resilient practices, advocates for increasing and optimizing investment in infrastructure, and improve engineering knowledge and competency. For more information, visit www.asce.org or www.infrastructurereportcard.org and follow us on Twitter, @ASCETweets and @ASCEGovRel.