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Business of Engineering

Asset management can help manage infrastructure projects

Asset management is helping city and state government prioritize spending and budget management, but they have a long way to go, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

By American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) January 29, 2020
Building construction continues across many cities. Courtesy: Katie Spain Narel, CFE Media and Technology

The American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) report Changing the Infrastructure Equation: Using Asset Management to Optimize Investments provides best practices for asset management implementation as well as policy recommendations. The report examines the current practice of asset management as a way to prioritize maintenance and make smart infrastructure investment decisions for our nation’s roads, bridges, water systems and more, while minimizing the total cost of owning and operating these assets.

Public spending on roads, bridges, water systems and more fell by 8% from 2003 to 2017, and ASCE estimates that between 2016 and 2025, we will underinvest in our infrastructure by over $2 trillion. This report found that all levels of government and the private sector can aid in closing the infrastructure gap and have been turning to asset management to set priorities.

“If we are to move the needle on our nation’s aging infrastructure—which sits at a ‘D+’— and make it fit for the 21st century, we need to start investing, better and smarter,” said ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith. “Asset management has been around for decades, but new technologies, as well as more holistic cross-sector implementation, are helping cities and states optimize investments. Using credible, centralized data, we can pinpoint maintenance needs for our aging infrastructure and get the biggest bang for our buck.”

Asset management involves creating a comprehensive infrastructure inventory, which makes prioritizing essential repairs and replacement projects, in addition to planning a long-term capital budget, efficient for policymakers and asset owners. Once the inventory is in place, the data is continuously updated as the condition of assets change.

This report found that elected officials and leadership have enthusiastically embraced asset management as a tool to make smart investment decisions. New polling of public agency leaders conducted in conjunction with the report found that only 19% of local and state management officials felt there was little to no political support for asset management. This poll found that many respondents are confident their organization uses an asset management strategy to keep up with their public assets. Additionally, 34% of respondents identified the need for political support as key to improving asset management capabilities.

While many asset management plans are voluntary and not required by the federal government, cities that choose to incorporate them have provided many benefits to the community in terms of funding.

The report offers several policy recommendations to encourage greater adoption of best-practice asset management strategies:

  • States, counties and cities should create an infrastructure commission to oversee the consolidation of their infrastructure data across asset classes, acting as a one-stop shop for a centralized database.
  • Create additional grant and low interest loan programs to assist localities and states with setting up an asset management inventory.
  • Require continuous oversight and accountability for completed asset management plans to ensure strategic use.
  • Expand the requirement for asset management plans as a condition to receive federal funding. This requirement exists for transportation networks but should also be applied to water systems.

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Author Bio: American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)