American Society of Civil Engineers’ Says U.S. Infrastructure Grades Remain Below Average

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HNTB Chicago engineer Don Wittmer says recent investments show U.S. shouldn’t accept “minimally acceptable” performance, lagging long-term funding

Like our own homes, automobiles and mobile phones, these assets deteriorate over time and need to be repaired, upgraded, and ultimately replaced.

Infrastructure experts in Chicago and across the country are reacting to today’s announcement by the American Society of Civil Engineers that the 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure is out and – while improved since the last one four years ago – the grades remain “minimally acceptable.”

“Infrastructure impacts all of our lives,” said Don Wittmer, PE, a transportation department manager in HNTB Corporation’s Chicago office and a long-standing member of ASCE. “It’s good to see investments made recently are raising our overall average, from D to D+, but I don’t think anyone believes that’s something to be proud of. Honestly, that wouldn’t be tolerated if, as a parent, your son or daughter came home with those grades.”

ASCE’s report states a $3.6 trillion investment is needed by 2020 to adequate address the nation’s infrastructure deficit.

“We have a long way to go,” Wittmer said. “Chicago is fortunate to have such a robust multimodal transportation system. Its roads, rails and ports play a central role in our region’s economic health. Yet, like our own homes, automobiles and mobile phones, these assets deteriorate over time and need to be repaired, upgraded, and ultimately replaced. Otherwise we risk declining performance and failure.”

Wittmer’s engineering background includes preliminary engineering studies and reports, feasibility studies, environmental documentation, interchange and intersection design studies, and roadway widening and resurfacing projects. He’s been actively involved with ASCE for many years, having previously served as ASCE Region 3 Governor, Illinois Section President, and on several committees, including State Government Relations and Public Policy.

Among his many projects in Chicago, Don has served as the project manager for engineering studies of Interstate 190, Interstate 80, Interstate 90 and Illinois Route 131, in which he helped develop long-term congestion solutions. However, funding for construction of most of these projects is not currently available.

“There are many examples of where infrastructure investments are making a difference, in terms of mobility, economic development and jobs,” Wittmer said. “In our work with the Illinois Tollway, for example, we’ve seen how congestion-relief programs can drive improved reliability of our transportation programs and a better quality of life.”

HNTB opened its first Chicago office in 1967 but has roots among many of the region’s historic infrastructure projects, leading all the way back to J.A.L. Waddell and the South Halsted Street Bridge in 1893. In addition to its ongoing program management work with the Illinois Tollway, modern projects have included designing the award-winning replacement North Avenue Bridge and the 10L runway extension at O’Hare International Airport, as well as providing design services to restore Amtrak’s Chicago Yard to a state of good repair, support services for the rehabilitation of the Chicago Transit Authority’s Wilson Station, and serving as design architect for the Chicago Midway Airport terminal expansion project. It employs approximately 160 professionals in multiple offices across the region.

About ASCE
Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers represents more than 140,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide and is America's oldest national engineering society. More information about the Report Card can be found at

About HNTB
HNTB Corporation is an employee-owned infrastructure solutions firm serving public and private owners and construction contractors. With nearly a century of service, HNTB understands the life cycle of infrastructure and addresses clients’ most complex technical, financial and operational challenges. Professionals nationwide deliver a full range of infrastructure-related services, including award-winning planning, design, program delivery and construction management. For more information, visit

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Wittmer is available for media interviews regarding the Report Card and the need for infrastructure leadership, comprehensive planning, dedicated funding and innovation at all levels of government.

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John O'Connell
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