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Civil Engineers Give Average Grades to Utah Infrastructure

The state earned an overall grade of C-minus for the condition of its infrastructure in the first Utah-specific study done by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Wed February 25, 2015 - West Edition
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah roads and bridges are in decent shape but its canals and levees are aging and vulnerable to floods, according to a report released Tuesday.

The state earned an overall grade of C-minus for the condition of its infrastructure in the first Utah-specific study done by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The same letter grade was given to Colorado and New Mexico in reports done in recent years and it was slightly better than grades handed out to Nevada, California and Idaho. The organization graded the nation’s infrastructure at D-plus.

Utah earned B grades for roads, bridges, dams, solid waste systems and public transit. The group gave C grades for drinking water and supply, hazardous waste, and wastewater and stormwater.

The organization gave D grades for Utah levees and canals. It said 19.5 miles of the 21 miles of levees in the state tracked by the Army Corps of Engineers are unacceptable.

Levees in Murray and Logan have broken in recent years, the latter causing deaths, said David Eckhoff, who spearheaded the report for the engineers society.

Most of the nearly 8,000 miles of canals in Utah were built more than 100 years ago, the report found.

The society estimates the state needs at least $60 billion over the next 20 years to maintain and improve infrastructure as Utah continues to move away from its rural roots and into an urban society, he said.

”A lot of us like to think we still have one foot on the farm but we don’t live there anymore and our requirements are really changing,’ Eckhoff said.

The report will be an important tool for lawmakers and public policy organizations to use as decisions are made about infrastructure investments, said Andrew Gruber, executive director of the Wasatch Front Regional Council, which has drafted a transportation plan for northern Utah’s main population corridor for the next 30 years.

”Our transportation infrastructure is in relatively good condition but we cannot afford to fall behind,’ Gruber said. ”If we delay now in finding solutions our system will deteriorate.’

Stagnant federal highway money over the past five years has ratcheted up the pressure on Utah officials to find a way to pay for upkeep on state roads and bridges.

Figures compiled by The Associated Press show that from 2008 to 2013, the amount of money available to Utah from the Federal Highway Trust Fund dropped 2.3 percent. Adjusted for inflation, that drop is closer to 9.7 percent.

Utah lawmakers this year are considering increasing the state gas tax for the first time since 1997 to generate an estimated $25 million for hundreds of bridges that need to be replaced in the coming years and $40 million to address road repairs that have been put on the back-burner.

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