Virginia's Infrastructure
2015 Report Card:  C-

By:  M. Callahan

The Virginia Division of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has published their 2015 Report Card for Virginia’s Infrastructure, assessing ten infrastructure categories.  Overall, Virginia received a grade of C-, up from the D+ received in 2009.  By way of comparison, America received a D+, not that either grade summons pride or confidence.

The analysis considered, “the condition of existing assets, expected service life, current functionality, and level of service, along with future growth needs and anticipated level of funding needed to maintain structures.”

Coming as no surprise, the roads received the lowest grade of D, and solid waste the highest with a B-. The roads in this Commonwealth have expanded by 14 percent over the past 35 years, and are now the third largest state road system in the country.

The report explained that, “More than 30% of the state’s bridges are more than 50 years old, with the national average age for bridges being 42. Alarmingly, 45% of high hazard dams, or 141, if breeched, could result in loss-of-life or property damage.” 

Our drinking water systems are also failing.  ASCE estimated that an investment of $6.1 billion will be needed over the next 20 years to bring this into the modern age.  (Many Virginia systems were built 70 years ago.) Wastewater systems  are even worse needing at least $6.8 billion.    

“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,” said Don Rissmeyer, chair for the Virginia section of the ASCE.  “Upgrading our infrastructure will prepare us for future growth, and create jobs in the process, further strengthening Virginia’s economy.”

“Clean water is the backbone for maintaining public health in Virginia, but it can also improve our economy,” Mr. Rissmeyer said. “In fact, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay has been estimated to generate $8.3 billion in economic benefits annually to Virginia.”

Virginia Is for Lovers may not long remain the state slogan if the commonwealth’s skeletal frame continues to crumble.

Dams  (C)

  • Virginia’s dam safety program has 10 Full-Time Employees that each oversee an average of 194 state regulated dams.
  • Virginia has 360 high hazard dams.
  • 71% of the state regulated dams in Virginia have an Emergency Action Plan.
  • 1,186 of the 13,765 bridges in Virginia (8.6 %) are considered structurally deficient.
  • 2,402 of the 13,765 bridges in Virginia (17.4%) are considered functionally obsolete.
  • Virginia has 74,591 miles of public roads.
  • Virginia has 9,761 miles of major roads, 6% of which are in poor condition.
  • Public school districts in Virginia spent a total of $4.4 billion on capital outlays for school construction and acquisition of land and existing structures in fiscal years 2005–2008.
  • Virginia produces 3.720 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy every year, ranking it 26th. 
    • Virginia's state dam safety program has an annual budget of $819,949.

Drinking Water  (C)
Virginia has reported $6.7 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.

Bridges  (C)
Virginia received $96.3 million from the Federal Highway Bridge Fund in FY2011.

Rail  (C-)
Virginia has 9 freight railroads covering 3,214 miles across the state, ranking it 21th by mileage.

Roads  (D)
Driving on roads in need of repair costs Virginia motorists $1.8 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $334.35 per motorist.

Transit  (C-)
Virginia has 74 million annual unlinked passenger trips via transit systems – motor bus, heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail.

Parks and Recreation  (C+)
Virginia has reported an unmet need of $532.8 million for its parks system.

Solid Waste  (B-)
Virginia has 208 permitted solid waste facilities where 20.2M tones of solid waste is processed.

Each Virginian averages 5.75 pounds of solid waste per day which is above the national average, but do 7% more recycling that the other states.

Schools  (C-)
It is estimated that Virginia schools have $8.5 billion in infrastructure funding needs.

Wastewater   (D+)
Virginia has reported $6.9 billion in wastewater infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.

OTHER AREAS REVIEWED BUT NOT GRADED

Aviation
There are 66 public-use airports in Virginia.

Energy
Virginia produces 3.720 gigawatt-hour of renewable energy every year, ranking it 26th.

Hazardous Waste
Virginia has 31 sites on the National Priorities List.

Inland Waterways
Virginia has 670 miles of inland waterways, ranking it 17th in the nation.

Levees
Virginia has approximately 16 miles of levees according to the current FEMA Midterm Levee Inventory.

Ports
Virginia’s ports handled 79.8 million short tons of cargo in 2012, ranking it 10th in the nation.

Much of America’s infrastructure was created, or replaced, by the Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corp, or the Public Works Administration between 1935 and 1943.  All three programs were highly successful Great Depression Era schemes that employed three million men and women. President Franklin Roosevelt, and his New Deal Administration, created these programs to establish useful work relief, rather than public assistance as they believed it would teach skills, self respect, and re-instill the work ethic, while providing the nation with vitally necessary infrastructure.

In Virginia, the WPA wage ranged from twenty-one to seventy-five dollars per month, which was one of the lowest rates in the country. The Old Dominion's program was always inundated with white-collar applications, as well as blue.

Throughout Virginia, plaques installed at parks, on bridges and motorways proudly proclaim that they were built by the WPA, CCC, or the PWA.  Look for them along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, the stone motor bridges in Williamsburg, most state parks, and many rural schools.


The Chamber is pleased to announce that a speaker from the The Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers will discuss Virginia’s aging infrastructure, its challenges, and its affect on business at the Chamber's Networking Luncheon on Thursday, June 11, 2015  The Speaker will also provide some local flavor to the broader trends facing Virginia.

Where:     Juke Box Diner - 7039 John Marr Drive (at the corner of John Marr & Columbia Pk.)
When:      NOON - 1:30 PM
Cost:        $20 Chamber members; $25 Non-Members, payable at the door
Details:    Please RSVP by no later than Tuesday, June 9th with reservations to 
info@annandalechamber.com

 

The Annandale Chamber of Commerce
This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of the ENDEAVOR News Magazine.
  Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, requires written permission of the author.

 

 

 

Paved and graded roadways make their way throughout the Virginia countryside and into towns with hand hewn bridges and tunnels.

Prior to 1935, most Virginia roads were just dirt tracks.  With labor from the WPA, the roads were widened and paved.

The Skyline Parkway & associated bridges were built by the Works Progress Administration.

Plaques similar to this one can been seen on bridges and stonework proudly completed by the WPA throughout Virginia.

 

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