Twin Ports Infrastructure Grades Slightly Above National Average

Ryan Juntti
Updated: March 12, 2018 10:42 PM

DULUTH - The Duluth Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released the inaugural 2018 Report Card for the Twin Ports Area's Infrastructure on Monday at the Duluth Airport.


A committee of over two dozen engineers and industry professionals had been assessing the region's infrastructure for well over a year. Ten counties in Northeastern Minnesota, and six counties in Northwest Wisconsin were surveyed.    

The public was invited to learn about the results for the first Infrastructure Report Card for the region.

"For people to get a sense of where we are at is critically important," said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

The report graded seven categories on a report card scale of "A" to "F" as follows: aviation (B-), bridges (B-), drinking water (D), ports (C+), roads (D+), solid waste (C+), and wastewater (C+). The Twin Ports infrastructure as a whole received a grade of "C," which was slightly above the nationwide average of "D+" in 2017. 

Aviation and bridges received the highest grade of "B-," while drinking water received the lowest grade of a "D," which matches the national average. This also means that the region's drinking water infrastructure needs to be replaced. 

"If we don't advocate for infrastructure, clean drinking water, and good roads and good airports, well who is," said Craig Bursch, 2018 Report Card Committee Chair. "It's our public duty to inform the general public and decision makers about the condition of our infrastructure in the region," he said. 

The assessments were based on eight different categories: capacity, condition, funding and future need, public safety, innovation, resilience, and operation/maintenance.

"Residents don't want a lot of crisis in these areas. They don't want a bridge crisis, or a drinking water crisis. They don't want a roads crisis. It's inconvenient, it's scary, and it rattles what you think the role of government should be and providing some of those basics," said Larson.

Bursch says in a press release that the purpose of the Infrastructure Report Card is to evaluate where progress has been made in the region but also to identify where investments need to be made to support the industries.    

Larson says things need to change, but she believes the people of Duluth are ready to help.

"When people understand where their money is going, they are much more prone to want to support that, and to co-invest in that strategy," said Larson.

Other findings from the report include; 

  • In the City of Duluth, between 30% and 40% of the 400 miles of wastewater pipes are between 60 and 100 years and needs to be replaced.
  • Much of the region’s drinking water infrastructure is beyond its useful service life. To keep up with pipe replacement, the City of Duluth needs to replace 4.33 miles of pipe per year at $4.33 million, much more than the current $2.5 million budget for pipe replacement.
  • Seven percent of the 1,529 bridges in the Twin Ports Area are structurally deficient, lower than the national average.
  • Road conditions in the City of Duluth are in poor condition, but the city’s request to the state legislature for a 0.5% dedicated sales tax for streets offers an attempt to close the funding gap.
  • Investment in the Twin Ports Area airport infrastructure continues at a steady pace with pavement maintenance and commercial airport terminal building updates in Brainerd, Duluth International, Falls Regional and Range Regional Airports.
  • About 35 million tons of cargo move through the port annually, which is more than 20% of all tons moved by ship on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway combined. Although capacity is sufficient, the ability of each facility to secure funding to improve condition is highly dependent on which state the dock is located in.
  • Solid waste abatement programs and solid waste management facilities are adequately funded, in good condition and have capacity for current and projected demand. However, availability of that capacity is a concern beyond 2022.


Ryan Juntti

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