HELENA – A new report released Thursday suggests Montana’s infrastructure is in serious need of investment.
The American Society of Civil Engineers compiled the report over the last year. Ten areas were examined including the state’s bridges, drinking water, dams, energy, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, stormwater, and wastewater.
Overall, Montana received a C grade when all categories were taken into consideration. That’s better than the national average, which is a “D plus.” Montana’s railways and solid waste system received the highest grades with a B and B-minus respectively.
On the other hand, schools and stormwater systems received the lowest grades with a D-minus and D respectively. The report found the average age of school facilities in Montana is 53 years and 68 percent of schools were built prior to 1970. However, some improvements have been made in places like Billings, Helena and Bozeman where last year voters approved bonds to pay for new schools.
Other categories in the report like energy and drinking water were given C ratings, meaning “mediocre” and requiring attention.
The report’s organizers said more investment is necessary to maintain these systems and that it’s not just visible infrastructure that needs help.
“You see the roads but what you don’t see is the underground infrastructure,” Dan Karlin, outreach chair for the report, said. “Water, wastewater, sewer. That’s stuff I liken… to a person’s heart. It’s not visible, but it’s critical to everything that person does. Same with our infrastructure underground.”
The report found Montana will need over a billion dollars to improve water infrastructure over the next 20 years.
Representatives with the Montana Infrastructure Coalition said Thursday there could be an infrastructure spending bond before the legislature to help fill the funding gap for many of these critical services. Another option is to find revenue streams from the millions of tourists who visit the state each year.
- Reported by Jacob Fuhrer