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Virginia Infrastructure Earns Grade of C-

January 23, 2015

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By Sarah Drury
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Virginia’s bridges, roads and other infrastructure have earned a grade of C-minus from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

That is slightly better than the state’s previous assessment – a D-plus in 2009, ASCE officials said this week in releasing the 2015 Report Card for Virginia’s Infrastructure.

“The question is whether a C-minus grade is good enough for Virginia,” said Don Rissmeyer, who chaired the latest assessment effort. “Think about your children’s report card when you celebrate a C-minus. For me, a C-minus isn’t good enough for Virginia today, and it’s certainly not good enough for us tomorrow.”

The report card covered 10 infrastructure categories, and each received its own grade:

– Bridges – C

– Dams – C

– Drinking water – C

– Parks and recreation – C-plus

– Rail and transit – C-minus

– Roads – D

– Schools – C-minus

– Solid waste facilities – B-minus

– Stormwater facilities – C-minus

– Wastewater facilities – D-plus

Those categories were averaged for a cumulative grade of C-minus.

At a press conference on the Capitol grounds Tuesday, Rissmeyer explained the reasons for the grades. Virginia’s roads got the lowest grade, for example, largely because of traffic congestion in areas such as Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. The state’s dams received a C because many of them lack emergency action plans: 141 of Virginia’s high-hazard dams – 45 percent of the total – do not meet current dam safety standards.

Although the grade for the commonwealth’s drinking water has improved, the report card estimates that this infrastructure category needs an investment of $6.1 billion over the next 20 years. Virginia’s stormwater facilities received a grade of C-minus primarily because state and local governments lack funding to implement regulations to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and other impaired waters.

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

The press conference also was an opportunity for ASCE officials to explain the role of civil engineers.

“Civil engineers are responsible for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of our vital public work,” said Christina Ammens, president of the society’s Virginia section.