CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio received a D+ grade for its overall infrastructure in an annual report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which was released Wednesday.
The report card gave the following grades for different parts of the infrastructure in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties: C- for bridges, D+ for dams, C- for drinking water, D for energy, D+ for roads, D for schools and D+ for wastewater. A C ranking is defined as “mediocre, needs attention,” and a D ranking means “poor, at risk.”
Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, said aging infrastructure is not simply a Northeast Ohio issue.
"Aging infrastructure is a national problem and communities that are dealing with it today are faced with increasing rates that are spread across our population," Dreyfuss-Wells said. "Every city in every state in the country is facing infrastructure issues. Bridges, roads, sewers, stormwater, this must be dealt with on a national level."
Dreyfuss-Wells added that NEORSD has done a wonderful job maintaining what they have.
"We have a lot, it is old, and we need to keep maintaining it," she said.
Ed Adamczyk, the report's author, said it is an investment cities have to make.
"There’s a cost to improved infrastructure," he said. "Nothing is free. and these projects we talk about are expensive projects, but they yield tremendous benefits in life, convenience and safety."
Schools received the lowest grade, with the report pointing out that 52 percent of the region's schools have not seen significant renovations in 40 years.
Adamczyk said the report highlights both problems and progress made by various entities.
The ASCE recommends four steps be taken to improve the infrastructure of the region.
They suggest the state increases gas and diesel taxes to pay for necessary road and bridge projects. The state’s fuel taxes have not increased since 2005, and by 2020, ODOT will face an annual budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion, when compared to what was available in 2014.
ASCE recommends that Northeast Ohio increases investment in infrastructure across all sectors. They argue that population decline can be slowed and even reversed when there is sustained investment in infrastructure to incentivize businesses to relocate or stay put.
The third recommendation is to invest in school facilities and training tomorrow’s workforce. Sufficient funding to repair and replace school facilities is needed, as school infrastructure was one of the lowest-graded categories in the 2019 report.
Finally, the ASCE recommends continued investment in wastewater infrastructure to ensure the health of Lake Erie.
Read the full 67-page report below: