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Report: Puerto Rico Infrastructure Earns D-

Thursday, November 14, 2019

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A few weeks after Puerto Rico announced plans for a $20 billion grid overhaul, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the territory’s infrastructure, which includes dams, bridges, roads and wastewater, an overall average grade of D-. The grading scale, ranging from A to F, ranks a D as “poor: at risk.”

Infrastructure was evaluated based on eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation.

$20 Billion Grid Overhaul

Last month, Puerto Rico revealed plans for a massive overhaul of its power grid, a $20 billion, 10-year endeavor that will bury power lines, up the use of natural gas and establish a system that can withstand winds of 160 mph.

The announcement came two years after Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez noted concerns over power outages and patchwork repairs that were made in the wake of the storm. Some communities went without power for close to a year.

SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

A few weeks after Puerto Rico announced plans for a $20 billion grid overhaul, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the territory’s infrastructure, which includes dams, bridges, roads and wastewater, an overall, average grade of D-. The grading scale, ranging from A to F, ranks a D as “poor: at risk.”

The Weekly Journal reports that the overhaul is being developed with four key factors in mind:

  • Making things more customer-oriented, so that customers will work more with utility companies;
  • Improving affordability for residents, businesses and industries;
  • Bettering energy infrastructure reliability; and
  • Bettering infrastructure resiliency in light of extreme weather events, along with a focus on sustainability.

Puerto Rico Infrastructure Grade

In the report card, Puerto Rico’s bridges, dams and wastewater earned a D+; drinking water and ports a D; roads and solid waste a D-; and energy an F. Additionally, the report card found that Puerto Rico will need to increase investment by $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion annually, totaling $13 to $23 billion to be spent over the next 10 years, to facilitate economic growth. Deferred maintenance and hurricane-related recovery work further widens the investment gap, however.

Regarding the bridge grade, Puerto Rico currently has 2,325 bridges, 11.7% of which are reportedly in poor condition with 69% percent in fair condition and only 19% are in good condition. The area also has four of the U.S.’s top 250 most travelled structurally deficient bridges. Due to hurricane damage, a good chunk of maintenance funding had to be reallocated to asset recovery.

According to the report card, 97% of Puerto Rico’s 37 dams are high-hazard potential, but only 35% of this number have been tested within the last five years. While 81% of Puerto Rico’s dams are currently considered to be in satisfactory condition, funding needed for seismic and hydraulic studies and other analysis is still required.

Prior to the hurricane damage within the last two years, Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure was in poor condition. The current network in place is fragile and prone to blackouts. In terms of drinking water, 59% of treated water winds up as non-revenue water loss.

Ports remain a critical part of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure—especially in terms of energy and food—but with the damage from hurricanes, the amount to repair all ports totals over $750 million.

As for the territory’s roads, the system at large suffers from a reduction in personnel as well as a lack of dedicated funding for road maintenance. There is also a lack of a data-driven management plan to help tackle long-term projects. Among other problems, local roads are also often built without the necessary supervision or quality control standards.

In terms of solid waste infrastructure, only 11 out of the 29 facilities in Puerto Rico meet federal standards. Currently, there is less than five years of remaining capacity for landfills in the area.

As for wastewater infrastructure, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority continually faces challenges with fiscal and operational matters. Around $551 million is needed in order to update infrastructure.

“Looking forward, our infrastructure throughout Puerto Rico must be rebuilt more resiliently by incorporating the latest materials, regularly collecting and aggregating data, and most importantly, building to adequate codes and standards. Funding must come from all levels of government and the private sector,” the ASCE writes.

   

Tagged categories: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE); Infrastructure; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Quality control

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