Oregon's Infrastructure

The Lewis and Clark Bridge from Rainier.

The Oregon Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has released its 2019 Report Card for Oregon’s Infrastructure, giving 10 categories of infrastructure an overall grade of a “C-.”

In addition to an overall grade, the report includes an evaluation of the following individual categories: bridges (C), dams (D+), drinking water (C-), energy (D+), inland waterways (C-), levees (D+), ports (C-), rail (C), roads (C+) and wastewater (D).

Wastewater Report

The lowest grade in the Report Card was wastewater, with a grade of “D.” In general, these systems are aging beyond their useful design life and many will soon need replacement or full rehabilitation. Approximately 30% of Oregonians are on septic systems, about 10% of which typically experience on-site failure each year.

This aging category of infrastructure needs approximately $5 billion across the state. Levees, although slightly better than wastewater, also received one of the lowest grades in the Report Card with a “D+.” Of levees inspected by the USACE, about 11% (124 miles) of Oregon levees are rated “Minimally Acceptable,” while about 30% (113 miles) are rated “Unacceptable.” Looking to the future, state leaders must take proactive steps to ensure these systems have the proper funding needed to be prepared for population growth, deterioration, and disaster response.

Bright Spots

A few bright spots prevailed in the Report Card including roads, which earned the highest grade with a “C+,” and bridges, which earned a “C.” Oregon has the lowest percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient in the western states at only 5.2%. This compares to 7.6% at the national level. Additionally, 90% of Oregon’s highways are in fair to good condition. However, these categories may face significant challenges in the near future.

Approximately 20 % of Oregon’s bridges are at risk of becoming structurally deficient in the short term and congestion is already a problem that impedes on successful economic development and impacts residents’ quality of life. Finally, a major earthquake would render components of the surface transportation network unusable. Seismic retrofitting and investment in critical segments of infrastructure necessary to move emergency vehicles and supplies is necessary.

“A reliable multimodal transportation system connects communities within Oregon to each other and the rest of the country, and we need to continue prioritizing these systems to ensure future success,” Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett said. “We look forward to continuing to build on the progress we’ve made to ensure our transportation network keeps Oregon competitive and resilient.”

The ASCE report also finds:

  • Petroleum transmission systems and equipment are over 50 years old and storage tanks are over 100 years old.
  • Over the next 5 years, over 70% of Oregon’s dams will be over 50 years old.
  • Oregon has 681 miles of inland waterways. Along with ports, inland waterways support close to 21,000 jobs and contribute $3.6 billion to the economy.
  • Freight rail tonnage in 2017 64.8 million tons, up from 54.4 million tons in 2012.

In addition to an evaluation and analysis of the 10 infrastructure categories, the Report Card also offers various recommendations to raise the grades, which include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Achieve ODOT’s goal of post-earthquake resiliency by completely funding the retrofit or replacement of bridges along “lifeline” routes.
  • Conduct a thorough seismic resiliency risk assessment of all key water system components, particularly above-ground reservoirs and water treatment and pumping plants for all water systems in Oregon.
  • Mitigate Oregon’s petroleum supply chain vulnerabilities, including transmission, storage and distribution. This will improve Oregon’s most significant energy sector vulnerability.
  • Protect the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund from being used for other, non-port related purposes.
  • The State of Oregon should establish a levee safety program that works directly with levee communities and federal partners, including FEMA and USACE. Of primary importance is identifying the conditions and risk associated with levee systems outside the federal portfolio.
  • Construct projects that will relieve bottlenecks on Portland area freeways.
  • Preserve tax exempt municipal bond financing. Low-cost access to capital helps keep lending for water and wastewater upgrades strong and accessible for communities large and small.

“Overall, Oregon’s infrastructure is in better condition than the national average and we are proud of the innovation happening in transportation, water, and other sectors,” Oregon Infrastructure Report Card Committee Chair Mark Libby said. “To keep Oregon’s economy thriving and ensure we are best prepared for what the future may bring, whether that be population growth or a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake, we must continue to place a high priority on modernizing our infrastructure and ensuring it is resilient.”

The Report Card for Oregon’s Infrastructure 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 Oregon’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 Oregon’s Infrastructure is available at www.InfrastructureReportCard.org/Oregon.

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.

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