Monday, June 12, 2017

Episode 372 (6-12-17): Infrastructure’s a Trillion Dollar Word

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:16).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, images, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 6-9-17.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 12, 2017.

SOUND – ~ 4 sec

This week, a ship’s horn sets the stage for a series of mystery sounds, all related to a newsworthy, widespread, and costly issue affecting structures from ports to public schools.   Have a listen for about 40 seconds, and see if you can guess this current issue.

SOUNDS - ~39 sec

If you guessed infrastructure, you’re right!  You heard the sounds of bridge traffic, a hydroelectric dam, a household faucet and drain, a river barge, trash, stormwater flow, and a Virginia state park name.  All represent aspects of the nation’s infrastructure, the engineered structures and systems supporting water and land use, energy, information, transportation, housing, schools, and other activities.

During late May and early June 2017, President Trump and some members of Congress announced separate proposals calling for investments of $1 to $2 trillion in the nation’s infrastructure.  Such calls for increased attention to infrastructure often cite the American Society of Civil Engineers’ “report card” on the state of engineered infrastructure in the United States.  Published every four years, the report covers infrastructure in 16 areas, assessing current conditions, future needs, and available funding.  The water-related areas include bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, parks, solid waste, and wastewater.   The 2017 report gave a “grade” of D+, and it estimated the cost of making necessary infrastructure improvements at about $4.6 trillion.  The Virginia part of the report, based on information compiled in 2015 by the Society’s Virginia section, gave the Commonwealth’s infrastructure an overall grade of C-.

Whether obvious like a highway or hidden like wastwater pipes, infrastructure’s a foundation of society and economies.  Improving the infrastructure grade is a challenge for public officials, scientists, engineers, and citizens—one that’ll take time, innovation, and money.

SOUND - ~5 sec

Thanks to for the ship horn sound, and thanks to a Blacksburg friend for calling out the state park name.


For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The ship fog horn was recorded by “inchadney” on June 3, 2012; accessed from the sound-sharing Web site,

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.   More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at

Cartoon that accompanied a February 2010 Virginia Water Central Newsletter article on the 2009 infrastructure report by the American Society of Civil Engineers-Virginia Section. Illustration by George Wills, Blacksburg, Va. (

Following are the infrastructure categories and 2017 grades from the American Society of Civil Engineers, “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” online at  According to “What Makes a Grade” at that Web site, 28 civil engineers volunteered their time to make the assessments, looking at capacity, conditions, funding, future need, operations and maintenance, public safety, innovation, and resilience.  The grades are described as follows: A = “exceptional, fit for the future”; B = “good, adequate for now”; C = “mediocre, requires attention”; D = “poor, at risk”; F = “failing/critical, unfit for purpose.”
Overall = D+
Aviation – D
Bridges – C+
Dams – D
Drinking water – D
Energy – D+
Hazardous Waste – D+
Inland Waterways – D
Levees – D
Ports – C+
Public Parks and Recreation – D+
Rail – B
Roads – D
School Facilities – D+
Solid Waste – C+
Transit – D-
Wastewater – D+

Following are the infrastructure categories and grades from the Virginia Section of the ASCE (ASCE-Va.), “2015 Virginia Infrastructure Report Card, online at  The categories are assessed and grades are given using the same criteria as in the national ASCE report.
Overall – C-
Bridges – C
Dams – C
Drinking water – C
Parks – C+
Rail and transit – C-
Roads – D
School facilities – C-
Solid waste – B-
Stormwater – C-
Wastewater – D+


Used in Audio

American Society of Civil Engineers, “2017 Infrastructure Report Card,” online at  A chart of results from previous reports–back to 1998–is available online at

American Society of Civil Engineers—Virginia Section, “2015 Virginia Infrastructure Report Card, online at

Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, Dems Propose a $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan, 5/26/17.

Sarah Drury, Virginia infrastructure earns grade of C-, Capital News Service, 1/21/15.

U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California), House Concurrent Resolution 63 (May 25, 2017), online at

Office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Leahy, Sanders And Other Leading Senate Democrats Unveil $1 Trillion Infrastructure Plan, News Release, 1/24/17.

Oxford University Press/Oxford Living Dictionary, “infrastructure,” online at   [“The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”]

Heidi Przybyla, Democrats' infrastructure proposal contrasts with Trump's plan, budget, USA Today, 5/31/17.

Ken Thomas and Josh Boak, President Trump Launches $1 Trillion Initiative to Fix America's Infrastructure, Associated Press, as published by Time, 6/5/17.

The White House, President Trump’s Plan to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure, 6/8/17.

For More Information about Infrastructure Needs in Virginia and Elsewhere

National Bridge Inventory Database, online at

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “CorpsMap—National Inventory of Dams, online at

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Clean Watesheds Needs Survey 2012 Report to Congress,” available online at  According to this Web site, this report is an “assessment of capital investment needed nationwide for publicly-owned wastewater collection and treatment facilities to meet the water quality goals of the Clean Water Act.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment (Fifth Report to Congress,” EPA 816-R-013-006, April 2013), available online at

Virginia Department of Transportation, “VTrans 2025: Virginia’s Statewide Multimodal Long-range Transportation Plan” (November 17, 2004): available online (as PDF) at

Virginia General Assembly joint subcommittee reports on school construction:
1) “Report on the Level of Assistance to Localities Necessary for Developing Adequate K-12 Schools Infrastructure,” House Document 5 for 2005 (published February 2005), available online at

2) “K-12 School Infrastructure,” House Document 2 for2006 (published November 2005), available online at


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (

Following are links to some episodes with connections to water-related or land-use infrastructure.
Bridges | Episode 245 – 12/22/14
Drinking Water Week | Episode 314 – 5/2/16
Fix a Leak Week | Episode 307 – 3/14/16
Hydroelectric power | Episode 170 – 7/15/13
SERCAP (formerly Virginia Water Project) | Episode 366 – 5/1/17
Solid-waste recycling, energy, and water | Episode 240 – 11/17/14
Virginia State Parks | Episode 161 – 5/13/13; Episode 320 – 6/13/16
Water supply planning | Episode 261 – 4/13/15
Wastewater treatment plants | Episode 72 – 7/25/11


This episode may help with the following Virginia 2010 Science SOLs:

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 - Va. natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.

Grades K-6 Force, Motion, and Energy Theme
6.2 – energy sources, transformations, and uses.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 - natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 - relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).

The episode may also help with the following Virginia 2015 Social Studies SOLs, which become effective in the 2017-18 school year:

Virginia Studies Course
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.8 – economic, social, and political transformation of the United States and the world after World War II.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.6 – government at the national level.
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.8 – government at the local level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 - how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.4 - types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.
WG.18 - cooperation among political jurisdictions to solve problems and settle disputes.

Government Course
GOVT.7 – national government organization and powers.
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.
GOVT.15 – role of government in Va. and U.S. economies, including examining environmental issues and property rights.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at