Posted by: SDGIS | March 5, 2013

Facing Infrastructure Obstacles at the City of San Diego

If you are involved in government at any level you are surely aware of the impending infrastructure crisis. The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently released their 2013 report card. In the report the United States overall gets a D+ and should invest $3.6 Trillion between now and 2020. This is a gigantic problem.

ASCE 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure

The real problem isn’t that there is so much work to do and not enough money to pay for it. The problem is that if the work is deferred or not done then fixing the problem becomes much more expensive, in dollars, inconceivable and directly impacted factors, like housing prices or ability to attract a knowledgeable workforce.

Here in San Diego we are facing the problem head head on.

One of the first moves City Council President Todd Gloria made was to propose the creation of an Infrastructure Committee.

“I am proposing creation of the Infrastructure Committee to bring necessary focus to the condition of the City’s streets, sidewalks, and structures … I  have heard the call of San Diegans that they are tired of driving over potholes and  tripping over sidewalks. This Committee will be able to develop comprehensive  solutions to a Citywide challenge.” – Todd Gloria, December 12, 2012

The description of the Infrastructure Committee is:

The Infrastructure Committee’s area of responsibility includes Capital Improvement Program  CIP), Creation of a Five-Year CIP, Community Hearings on CIP Priorities, Review and  Recommend, if necessary, Revisions to any Council Policies dealing with CIP, Oversight of CIP Streamlining, Infrastructure Finance, Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP), and Asset Management.

On January 23rd, Councilman Mark Kersey, Chair of the City’s new Infrastructure Committee released the 2013 Infrastructure Committee Work Plan. The overarching focus of this document is clear: Figure out the scope through a detailed inventory and develop a comprehensive 5-year plan to  fix the problem. It should be noted that it does not say to allocate new funds and start fixing everything. This document is heavy on planning and light on specifics. It does not say that specific streets need to be repaved or outline specific measures to eliminate or reduce water main breaks. I personally think this is the most effective, long-term approach for our City.

Infrastructure assets are defined as “streets, sidewalks, fire stations, libraries, recreation centers, storm drains, water mains, water and wastewater treatment  plants, pumping stations, airports, golf courses, stadiums, streetlights, lifeguard towers, and piers.” The current infrastructure backlog is tallied at $900M. There are many infrastructure assets which are not included in the $900M because they 1) haven’t been assessed and inventoried or 2) maintenance of these assets are funded through other means.  The total infrastructure backlog is expected to exceed $1B. General best practices suggest that 2-4% of replacement value be spent on maintenance annually. The City currently spends less than one half of one percent.

The 2013 Infrastructure Committee Work Plan charges City Staff with creating a comprehensive 5-year infrastructure plan. Key City Staff Members include, James Nagelvoort (City Engineer), Tony Heinrichs (Director, Public Works), Roger S. Baily (Director, Public Utilities Department) and Susan Bowman (Asset Management Program Manager, Public Utilities Department), among others.


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