N.H.'s infrastructure grade: a 'C'
When it comes to the state of its infrastructure, New Hampshire is neither failing nor flying high, earning an overall grade of "C" in a report issued by a local chapter of civil engineers.Released by the New Hampshire Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the 2011 New Hampshire Infrastructure Report Card broke down the performance of 13 of the state's infrastructure systems, including transportation, drinking water, schools and dams.Ken Milender, president of the New Hampshire section, said the report card was developed to "raise public awareness of the impact crumbling infrastructure is having on our daily lives.""For too many years, we have under-invested in our state's infrastructure," he said. "With each passing day, the inability of our state's aging infrastructure to meet the needs of our growing population further threatens our economy and quality of life."The state took home no A's and only one grade above C+ -- a B-, for its energy generation and transmission. With a diverse energy portfolio and generating capacity of 20 percent more than peak demand, the state power supply should be adequate to fulfill projected demands through at least 2014, says the report.Most of the state infrastructure systems landed C grades, including:Aviation: C+. The lack of a dedicated state aeronautical fund - coupled with aircraft taxes that are largely redirected into the state general fund - make repairs and meeting safety requirements difficult for the 12 airports in New Hampshire that are ineligible for state funding, the report says.Dams: C-. Of the 2,618 dams in the state, 841 are considered hazardous; however, since the state owns less than 10 percent of them, limited resources are available to meet the capital needs to repair and maintain municipal and privately owned dams, according to the report.Hazardous waste:C. Twenty sites in the state are undergoing cleanup through the Superfund program, funded through annual appropriations from Congress, and the New Hampshire Brownfields Program - which provides incentives to remediate contaminated properties - has targeted between 500 and 1,000 sites. However, there are still approximately 1,000 identified hazardous waste sites in the state needing attention, the report finds. Mass transit: C-. While transit ridership is up, and ride-sharing and car-pooling options have been expanded for commuters in recent years, the state's rail infrastructure has suffered from deferred maintenance, the report said.Roads and Bridges: C- and C. A lack of sustainable, long-term funding is a major problem for the state's roads and bridges, many of which require significant repair. In its latest 10-year plan, the state determined $800 million was needed to repair existing infrastructure, but only $45 million of new projects have been added to date, said the report. Schools: C-. Because the last quantitative evaluation of the state's public school infrastructure took place more than a decade ago, a study is required to develop a capital program for rehabilitation, reconstruction, and maintenance, says the report. Solid waste: C. With current landfills predicted to reach capacity within the next decade, additional landfill sites must be identified and permitted, says the report, which recommends expanding single-stream recycling to cut down on solid waste disposed of in landfills.Other infrastructure grades were: drinking water, C-; hazardous waste, C; and wastewater, C-, with an estimated $1.3 billion required for repairs and replacement of the state's wastewater infrastructure, according to the report.The state received its lowest grade, a D+, for its navigable waterways, which require significant dredging to the tune of 2.8 million cubic years of sediment, says the report, which also points out that the state does not have an onshore or offshore disposal site for dredge spoils.In determining grades, a committee of eight volunteer practicing and professional civil engineers from across the state collected and evaluated data and made recommendations, which were critiqued for objectivity and consistency before being included in the report. -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW