The value of the nation's infrastructure assets has declined to 1970 levels, according to a report recently released by the Road Information Program.

The government spent only $21.4 billion for capital highway improvements in 1990, compared with $22.8 billion spent 20 years earlier, according to the report prepared by the nonprofit group.

Accordingly, the group gave the nation's infrastructure low marks, scoring most categories at average or below average, using a scale from A to F. The group critique America's roads and bridges in four areas: roads, which scored a grade of C; bridges, which also received a C; management of traffic growth, which scored a D; and funding, which received a D as well.

Overall, the group gave the nation's transportation system a D grade.

"If the value of Americans' homes followed the value of America's highway system, we'd be facing another major bailout," said William Wilkins, executive director of the road information program.

The report was released by the group shortly after the Senate's passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill that would allow state and local governments the option of channeling more than 40% of their federal highway funds to mass transit and other uses.

"Congress now has an opportunity to enact legislation that recognizes the severity of our road and bridge crisis," Mr. Wilkins said.

The group's study quoted federal data indicating 41.2% of the nation's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and the number of bridges closed to traffic has increased nearly 26% since 1986. The number of bridges that can no longer carry heavyweight vehicles increased nearly 18%.

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