Across dams, national parks, federal buildings, and state capital budgets, these five interactive heat maps explore and compare maintenance in America.

The Oroville Dam spillway failure, and our talk with Professor Lee Vinsel on the balance between innovation and maintenance, has us thinking about the role maintenance plays in these modern United States. The following heat maps explore five different dimensions of maintenance in America. Click on any state for additional details.

High Hazard Potential Dams

In 1972, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to inventory dams in the United States with the National Dam Inspection Act. There are 15,460 dams across the 50 states with a hazard potential rating of “High.” Of the High hazard potential dams that need an “Emergency Action Plan,” 21% of them do not. Maintenance on the Oroville Dam spillway in northern California was estimated to be tens of millions of dollars in 2005, repairing it now will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. California is ranked 4th for the number of its dams (833) with a High hazard potential rating. Missouri is ranked #1, with 1,457 dams with a hazard potential rating of High.


Capital City Maintenance Costs by Population

What do cities spend every year on maintenance costs? The open letter on infrastructure spending had us asking. We dug through every state capital’s annual budget to get an idea. A detailed effort was made to compare like to like line items across city budgets: maintenance costs reflected here generally equal the Public Works budget less sanitation expenses. This includes engineering (but not permitting), facilities management, fleet management and maintenance, and street maintenance. Excluded from this analysis are the massive deferred maintenance tabs ratcheting up across many cities (such as San Jose’s and Atlanta’s billion dollar backlogs). This map compares the dollar amount, per each city resident, that each state capital spends on maintenance every year. On average, American cities spend $173 per person on maintenance per year. Juneau, Alaska, clocks in at #1 with $310 per person, with Sacramento ranked 16th at $202.


Capital City Maintenance Costs by Revenue

Another way of looking at annual maintenance costs across state capital cities is by comparing it to the annual revenue those cities bring in each year. On average, for every dollar of revenue, American cities spend $0.09 on maintenance per year. Juneau, Alaska, drops to #43 at $0.03, with Sacramento staying at #16 with $0.10. Lincoln, Nebraska, tops the charts at $0.28. In total, over $2 billion is spent on maintenance across these 50 cities every year.


National Park Service Deferred Maintenance

Cities are not the only organizations raking up extensive deferred maintenance backlogs. The National Park Service accounts for deferred maintenance for each of its parks at the close of every fiscal year. On average, each state’s National Parks are carrying a $227 million backlog. California clocks in at #1, with $1.7 billion on the books. Washington, D.C., is #2 (due to the National Mall and Memorial parks). In total, the National Park Service is carrying $12 billion of deferred maintenance.


United States of Maintenance in Government Buildings

The federal government is responsible for maintaining more than just our precious National Parks. According to the BOMA-Kingsely report, Government office buildings spend an average of $2.01 per square foot on repairs and maintenance. By applying that estimate to GSA data from the Federal Real Property Profile, it’s possible to estimate the dollars spent every year on repairs and maintenance in Government buildings in each state. On average, $27 million is spent each year in each state. California is ranked #1, with $143.8 million spent in 2015. Vermont is ranked last, accounting for just 0.2% of the nearly $1.4 billion spent across all GSA buildings.



Please leave a comment below or ask us directly any questions you might have, or ideas on how to extend this analysis on the United States of Maintenance.


About Millen Paschich

Millen began his career at Cambridge Associates, trained in finance at SMU, and has an MBA from UCLA. Talk to him about bicycling, business, and green chile burritos.

0 replies on “The United States of Maintenance”

You may also be interested in...