A Virginia civil engineers group gives the state’s infrastructure an overall grade of C- minus, up from the D-plus the engineers graded it five years ago.
Fixing Virginia’s aging, deteriorating and outmoded infrastructure could cost a minimum of $40 billion over two decades.
The 2015 Report Card for Virginia’s Infrastructure, released Tuesday by the Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, assessed 10 categories of the state’s public works. Roads received the lowest grade — a D — in the report card analysis. Solid waste earned the highest grade: B-minus.
“A C-minus is a slight improvement over last time,” said Don Rissmeyer, chairman of the infrastructure committee with the Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, “but it’s not the kind of grade you’d want your children bringing home.”
“We believe that we’re maintaining the status quo with the C-minus,” said Rissmeyer, associate in charge of AMT Engineering Inc.’s Richmond office. However, “the status quo really isn’t good enough for Virginia.”
Among the reasons the state’s infrastructure score improved, however marginally, is that in 2013, Virginia began to pour an additional $4 billion into its transportation system, Rissmeyer said.
A water line failure in Richmond late Sunday underlined the engineers’ concerns about inadequate infrastructure.
“It’s a real-time example of aging infrastructure and the need to reinvest,” Rissmeyer said. “The average water system is 70 years old in Virginia, and Richmond’s utility system is one of the oldest.”
The break in a 24-inch water main at the intersection of Harrison, Parkwood and Cumberland streets shut down service to much of the city Monday morning.
“Safe roads and bridges, schools and parks that are well-maintained, and modernized water and wastewater systems, all contribute to the economy and make Virginia such a great place to live, raise a family or own a business,” Rissmeyer said. “Upgrading our infrastructure will prepare us for future growth and create jobs in the process, further strengthening Virginia’s economy.”
A team of professional engineers in Virginia assessed the 10 public works sectors to reach the cumulative grade of C-minus. The categories with their grades are: bridges, C; dams, C; drinking water, C; parks and recreation, C-plus; roads, D; rail and transit, C-minus; schools, C-minus; solid waste, B-minus; stormwater, C-minus; and wastewater, D-plus.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ national report card gives the U.S.’s infrastructure an average grade of D-plus, Rissmeyer said. The nation needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring its public works infrastructure up to an acceptable standard, the report said.
Engineers and other experts in the field graded each category, Rissmeyer said, based on eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future needs, public safety, resilience, innovation, and operation and maintenance.
Asked for an example of infrastructure rated A, Rissmeyer said, “We don’t really have A infrastructure in the United States or in Virginia.”
“Since it is very difficult to score infrastructure with A’s and B’s, I think a goal of achieving more B’s on the report card would be great for Virginia,” Rissmeyer said. “But in the end, our elected officials and citizens need to decide what is an acceptable grade by how they value infrastructure in comparison to competing interests.”
The engineers’ report was released Tuesday at Capitol Square as Virginia’s legislative session was getting underway.
Civil engineers are typically involved in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of the types of public facilities graded by the report card.
Among the key findings of the report:
- Virginia has the third-largest state roadway system in the nation, and the system has grown 14 percent in the past 35 years. But significant problems remain, most notably in the Washington region, which is considered to have the second-worst traffic congestion in the nation, with the average motorist experiencing 78 hours of travel delay annually.
- More than 30 percent of the state’s bridges are more than 50 years old. By comparison, the national average age of bridges is 42 years.
- The state has 141 high-hazard dams that do not meet current dam safety standards and if breached could cause loss of life or property damage.
- Virginia’s water systems require nearly a $6.1 billion investment over the next 20 years as many of the systems are approaching 70 years old. Wastewater systems require an even larger investment: $6.8 billion. Additionally, investments in water quality are needed for the stormwater and wastewater infrastructure to meet the regulatory requirements to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
- More than 60 percent of school facilities are more than 40 years old, and the estimated renovation costs have more than doubled in recent years, exceeding $18 billion.
The civil engineers’ report updates the inaugural state report card released in 2009.
“We are losing pace with some of the more manageable numbers we presented in the 2009 Report Card,” said Rissmeyer, noting, for instance, that “the school estimate has more than doubled since 2009 at $18 billion.”