Nick Turner, PE has been with Alliant for over two years. He recently completed a one and half year-long project with American Society of Engineers (ASCE) regarding the health of infrastructure in MN. Now that the report has been released, he discusses why the project was so important to him and the findings that were surprising.
Tell us a little about your work experience.
I have experience in an array of fields within civil engineering including project management, major transportation planning and design, construction observation, trail planning and design, and geometric design on roundabouts.
What is the ASCE Report Card? Why is it important?
Our nation is at a crossroads. Deteriorating infrastructure is impeding our ability to compete in the thriving global economy, and improvements are necessary to ensure our country is built for the future. While we have made some progress, reversing the trajectory after decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure requires transformative action from Congress, states, infrastructure owners, and the American people.
That’s why, every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s 16 major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Infrastructure Report Card. Using a simple A to F school report card format, the report card examines current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigns grades, and makes recommendations on how to raise them.
Minnesota is one of the last states to publish a state-specific report card. When the team chose to write this inaugural report card, we selected 9 of the 16 categories to represent Minnesota. The nine categories are:
- Drinking Water
What made you want to be a part of this project?
Having only recently moved to Minnesota, I saw this as an opportunity to both learn the specifics behind Minnesota infrastructure and grow my network. A tight group of 20 individuals stuck together through the 18 months of research, writing, and release preparation. Now, those 20 engineering colleagues are a major part of my local network. Through my research, I also learned a lot about where Minnesota roads stand, where they have been in the past, how projects are funded, and how innovative the State of Minnesota has been regarding roadway infrastructure.
What role did you play in completing this project? How many others were involved?
A group of 20 engineering related professionals comprised the Minnesota Infrastructure Report Card team. Each of the nine categories had a leader, and I was the leader for the “Roads” category. My group had four people that regularly attended meetings and supported me through the research and writing process.
Minnesota’s infrastructure received an overall letter grade of “C”. What does that tell us? How do we compare to other states in the US?
Our letter grade of “C” is higher than the national grade of a “D+”. Minnesotans should be happy to see that overall, we seem to be trending higher than other states. However, a better comparison would be to directly look at the Minnesota category grade vs the National category grade. A chart comparing the two is below:
This chart shows that Minnesota may be excelling at Aviation, but we are behind in Bridges, and only similar in several categories. I would like to think, as one of the more innovative states for infrastructure, that we could be excelling in several more categories than we currently are.
What was the most surprising or concerning finding in the report?
My research was specifically on the Roads category and I can speak to those surprises more than I can the other sections. I found several different facts to be surprising. Did you know Minnesota has the 5th highest number of public roadway miles in the US? We’re the 12th largest state by size, and 22nd by population… So why do we have the 5th most public roadway miles?
Next, the 100 worst bottlenecks in the US were identified during a truck movement study. Can you guess how many are in Minnesota? Five! Five of the worst 100 trucking bottlenecks appear right here in the Twin Cities. There are only two urban areas equal to or worse than the Twin Cities, can you guess which two? Atlanta and Houston. Who wants to guess where these five bottlenecks are?
Speaking of congestion, the Twin Cities has ranked as the 17th worst urban area in the US for congestion. An average driver will lose over $1,332 annually to traffic congestion. That equates to over $2.3 billion annually lost because of congestion.
What are some things all of us can do within our own communities to ensure our infrastructure stays healthy?
Educate yourself and VOTE! Our report is full of recommendations on how to raise the grade, but many of these require government involvement. Reach out to your representatives and make your opinion known. If you want to see better infrastructure in Minnesota, tell your legislatures what you want. They do like hearing from you!
If you’re interested in learning more, check out the detailed report here.