Orange County’s infrastructure is in better shape than much of the nation’s, but will still require an investment of more than $22 billion over the next decade to make systems sustainable long term, experts announced, releasing a C+ Infrastructure Report Card for the Southern California county.
A coalition of members of the American Society of Civil Engineers and UC Irvine faculty spent more than a year evaluating 12 key infrastructure systems to create the report card. Grading the systems raises public awareness for infrastructure needs and can help agencies with the politics of funding investments.
“In this first assessment of Orange County’s infrastructure since the 2008 recession, we found that while some areas have improved incrementally, others have declined, leaving our overall GPA stalled for more than a decade,” said Yaz Emrani, OC Infrastructure Report Card Chair.
At least a B grade is desired for each of the 12 infrastructure sectors evaluated. In the last national evaluation in 2013, the United States got an overall grade of D+
Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel said the county deserves credit for doing more with less. Orange County earned “a higher grade than the nation as a whole, with less funding than others. Unlike Los Angeles or San Francisco, we only get 6 cents on the dollar from property taxes, compared to their 18,” she said.
Aviation systems received the highest grade (A-) — John Wayne Airport is in excellent condition though demand will likely exceed capacity over the long term.
Surface water quality systems received the lowest grade (D+) — storm water runoff from even moderate showers “quickly overwhelms” the county’s system for capturing, treating and using rainwater
Ground transportation received a mediocre C grade. The county needs to spend an additional $133 million a year (that’s $588 million annually) to maintain, improve and expand the transportation network, which would “elevate Orange County’s quality of life, spur economic growth and support local jobs.”
“The main concern of the report is current funding sources are not adequate enough to meet demand,” said Darrell Johnson, CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority. “Local sources have kept their end of the bargain.” But, he added, state sources have largely dried up and federal funding has flatlined.
“We used to spend 50 cents of every dollar on infrastructure. Now we spend less than 5 cents on the dollar,” Emrani said. “Since our infrastructure works as a system, it’s important that Orange County increase investment so that we can move our infrastructure from ‘catching up’ to ‘ready for the future.’”
Source: Orange County Register