The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave Puerto Rico’s infrastructure a near-failing D- grade and that shows the need to advance efforts aimed at directing a sustainable and resilient rehabilitation of structures that are key for the island´s quality of life and growth.
ASCE evaluated the conditions of the island´s infrastructure in eight categories including bridges, dams, ports and roads, and water and solid waste systems. They all received a poor grade. However, the energy grid got the worst grade. ASCE described the island´s power grid as "critical" and unable to meet the needs of the people. The report stresses that the fragility of the power grid requires urgent renovation.
The report, presented by the group of engineers, complements previous technical information, which is key to restore structures with failures that, in some cases, put people´s lives in danger. This is a serious matter that cannot be ignored.
The fact that, based on the new evaluation of the state of bridges, dams, roads, as well as the drinking water and energy systems, experts increase from $ 1,23 to $ 2,3 billion the projection of funds for the urgent transformation that Puerto Rico requires is really significant. That injection of funds would be used to modernize the infrastructure necessary for the island’s economic growth and competitiveness.
Thee report highlights the need to adopt new building codes in all future projects, as well as the use of high quality and innovative materials that guarantee sustainability and resilience and the importance of investing a substantial package of funds. This point is correct.
The report, on the other hand, calls for eliminating a long deficiency: the lack of comprehensive maintenance plans for public facilities and the lack of thoroughness in implementing them, despite the fact that those steps are contemplated since the construction was completed. For the experts, this deficiency is one of the factors that limit the lifespan of roads, ports as well as the hydraulic and energy systems.
In this sense, it will be important for academic institutions and the government to take action to train more technical and specialized resources dedicated to public infrastructures and equipment maintenance. Today, the lack of such resources represents an obstacle that forces to bring resources and thus to higher expenses.
Achieving a Puerto Rico with a solid public infrastructure is a project that requires the participation of different social and economic sectors. The task falls to the government, sharing efforts with the private sector, nonprofit organizations and citizens.
The ASCE worked along with private sector representatives. They should also be part of the effort to create a comprehensive infrastructure plan, with specific short, medium and long-term priorities and goals.
This is not the first time that the government and citizens have been called to renew their public infrastructure. However, the findings of these civil engineers show the opportunities to create the conditions for a faster recovery after Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017. Since Puerto Rico is in a hurricane zone, the contributions and technical recommendations by these specialized engineers are really important.
Puerto Rico has to move from diagnosis to action in order to transform its infrastructure. The ASCE report shows opportunities for modernization. Puerto Rico must create the circumstances to direct sustainable and resilient projects that will mark its economic recovery.