Civil engineers have looked at crucial parts of the Bay Area’s infrastructure, and they don’t particularly like what they see.

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ report card (.pdf), released Thursday, gave the region a C overall. But three categories of infrastructure –- roadways, goods movement and flood control — scored only a D+. The study said an additional $2.83 billion annually is needed to bring the region’s systems up to a B grade.

The engineers blame governments for deferring maintenance spending and the general public for taking public works for granted.

Highway 101 in San Francisco. (Photo: Tristam Sparks, Flickr)

“If the economics and the funding remain a low priority, then the public must be willing to accept systems that will not operate,” said Mike Kincaid, one of the study leaders. “The expectation that you can drive anywhere, that you can get a drink of water any time, that the toilet will flush all the time, that the storm drain system will work all the time, that there will be no flooding at any time from a normal storm – those normal expectations are completely false.”

Kincaid cited a national report that put San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, and Concord among the 20 worst areas for pavement quality on major streets. He said bad roads pose a hidden cost to drivers, who have to replace tires and redo alignments more frequently.

The worst drop in quality, according to the report, actually occurred in the wastewater category, which got an A in 2005 but dropped to a C+.

In response to the report, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee issued a statement, promoting a bond measure that’ll appear on the November ballot specifically for road repaving and seismic strengthening.

Among the criticism, some good news: Scores for Bay Area airport facilities and drinking water improved significantly since the last time the ASCE issued a report card, in 2005.

Engineers Give Very Low Grade to Bay Area Roads 29 July,2011Nina Thorsen


Nina Thorsen

Nina Thorsen is a KQED radio producer and director, and frequently reports on sports, food and culture.  

She co-created and produced KQED’s Pacific Time,  a weekly radio program on Asian and Asian American issues that aired from 2000 to 2007. Before coming to KQED, Thorsen was the deputy foreign editor for Marketplace.  In her home state of Minnesota, she worked for A Prairie Home Companion and for Public Radio International.  

Nina was honored by the Radio-TV News Directors Association of Northern California in 2012 for a series of stories on the Oakland A’s stadium.  She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a degree in speech-communication. 

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