Streets and highway overpasses
Cars travel on city streets and highway overpasses in San Diego. REUTERS/Mike Blake

California’s infrastructure, from highways to levees to water systems, received an overall grade of “C-” from the American Society of Civil Engineers in its annual evaluation.

The Golden State’s airports, wastewater systems and ports received the highest grade at “C+,” while energy came in at a near-failing “D-” in the report released last week.

“Recent investments have been made across all 17 categories that comprise the state’s infrastructure network,” the ASCE noted. “However California is playing catch-up after years of under-investment and must identify investment needs for resilient infrastructure in preparation for future natural and man-made disasters.”

While port facilities and aviation infrastructure were bright spots, with the report noting “in general, airport runways are in good condition,” other parts of the state’s transportation network were in need of improvement. Railroads got a “C,” transit and bridges a “C-,” and roads a dismal “D.”

“Our transportation system is a fundamental key to both our state and national economy” said Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. “We must prioritize our infrastructure if we want to continue creating jobs and growing revenue while providing a safer and more reliable transportation system.”

Energy received the lowest grade because the state’s network of generating stations using natural gas, nuclear, solar and wind must deal with fire threats, seismic events, aging equipment and poor right-of-way vegetation management.

Levees, which received a “D,” are also of concern as they are aging and severely underfunded. Levees in the Central Valley along the Sacramento River were constructed by pioneers to protect farms, not the 1.3 million people who live in the area today.

Dams fared better with a “C-,” but the report noted that 70 percent of California’s dams are greater than 50 years old, and half are considered to present a hazard.

The ASCE said priorities for California include better right-of-way vegetation management to improve the reliability of energy infrastructure and investment in levees.

“Investing in our state’s infrastructure network not only relieves us of traffic congestion, transit delays and power outages, but it also keeps California residents safe during much bigger disasters like flooding and earthquakes,” said Kwame Agyare, director of the ASCE for California. “After a generation of under-investment, it’s time to prioritize infrastructure investment.”

Founded in 1852, the ASCE represents more than 150,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.