Making the Grade


August 1, 2013

by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief,


Aggregate producers know a significant investment is needed to improve the nation’s transportation systems. Whether to alleviate congestion or to improve the safety and capacity of the nation’s bridges and roads, the United States continues to underinvest in infrastructure.

For those who haven’t noticed the state of disrepair, however, two organizations — the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) — are drawing attention to the problem.

According to the ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the nation’s cumulative grade point average increased slightly from its 2009 grade. It now rates a D+. By sector, Roads earned a D, as the group noted that 42 percent of the nation’s major urban highways remain congested, at an estimated annual cost of $101 billion in wasted time and fuel. Bridges earned a C, but one in nine is rated as structurally deficient, and the average age of the nation’s bridges is 42 years.

The report notes, “We know that investing in infrastructure is essential to support healthy, vibrant communities. Infrastructure is also critical for long-term economic growth, increasing Gross Domestic Product, employment, household income, and exports. The reverse is also true — without prioritizing our nation’s infrastructure needs, deteriorating conditions can become a drag on the economy.”

SME also issued a technical briefing paper that calls for full funding of the nation’s surface transportation programs. “Infrastructure improvements will require easy access to large quantities of quality aggregates,” says SME Executive Director David L. Kanagy. Keying into the importance of permitted reserves, he adds, “crushed stone, sand and gravel provide the basic building blocks for the economy and are essential to support healthy, vibrant communities…”

Both reports note that $170 billion in annual investment is necessary in order to improve the nation’s roads. An additional annual investment of $20.5 billion, nearly $8 billion more than currently being spent, is necessary to eliminate the backlog of bridge work in the United States.

As the economy begins to recover, it’s time to once again make this issue a national priority. Be sure to share the results of the ASCE Report Card with your representatives and remind them of SME’s guidance: every dollar invested in the highway system yields $5.20 in economic benefits to the nation.


3 Things I learned from this issue


1. Nearly 40 percent of aggregates injuries involve material handling, page 13.


2. Telematics can be used to demonstrate on-time deliveries, page 19.


3. The simple step of pressure washing the cooler on your drill can help prevent breakdowns, page 24.









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