Infrastructure Problems

Geotechnology’s Gallagher & Boll Help ASCE Create Awareness of Infrastructure Problems

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Looks to Ignite Action for Americans to Make Investments or Face Consequences

The grades for our U.S. infrastructure are in and they are grim. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the country’s infrastructure has an average grade of D+.

ASCE is warning Americans across the nation that they must commit to rebuilding and protecting our infrastructure or we will face serious consequences.

Since 2001, ASCE has issued a National Infrastructure Report Card every four years that examines current infrastructure conditions and needs, assigns grades, and makes recommendations for how to make improvements. For its 2017 Report Card, the organization reviewed 16 infrastructure components and found that the infrastructure warranted the same overall grade as in 2013. Much of the infrastructure is in fair to poor condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of its service life. There is cause for concern.

In order to drive home the local significance of these findings, ASCE asks members across the nation to volunteer their time and talents to prepare State Infrastructure Report Cards.

Sheryl Gallagher

For more than a year, Sheryl Gallagher, PE, D.GE, Principal Engineer in Geotechnology’s Overland Park, Kansas office, and Dennis Boll, PE, RG, Principal Engineer in Geotechnology’s St. Louis office, have led efforts to bring attention to the condition of infrastructure in Missouri and Kansas.

Gallagher became involved after she completed her term of office as ASCE Kansas City chapter President. A board member of the Kansas City Section asked if she would serve as Chair of the Kansas City Section Government Public Relations (GPR) Committee.  Responsibilities of being chair included spearheading updates of the Missouri and Kansas Infrastructure Report Cards.  Planning efforts for the report cards began in January 2017 by reaching out to the presidents of ASCE’s Kansas, Kansas City and St. Louis Sections and the Wichita Branch and having them send out a request for volunteers to their members. While gathering volunteers, Ms. Gallagher collaborated with ASCE National to determine milestone goals so that releases for both states could occur in late Spring 2018.

She was grateful when 45 ASCE members across the states of Missouri and Kansas volunteered to research and prepare reports that most appropriately fit their areas of expertise.

“Because our volunteers were so dispersed, in-person meetings were impossible to arrange. ASCE National set up webinars so we could learn about how the national report was prepared,” said Gallagher. “We learned that grades were assigned according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. We had access to technical and industry reports prepared by experts in their fields. It was important for us to understand the format of the Report Card, so that we, as well as our counterparts in California or Maine or elsewhere, were grading similarly.”

The Committees had access to financial information and studies from dozens of state and federal sources, such as the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The 2013 Report Cards were helpful as reference points, as well, since Committee members were able to see how the states used funding to manage past infrastructure issues.

A draft of the Missouri report card was finished March of 2018, and one for Kansas was finished in June 2018, Gallagher says, but there was a lot of back and forth communication afterward between the Committees and ASCE National. Some report card chapter members had to do more research, answer questions, add data and make changes for the sake of consistency.

Boll serves as Chairman of the St. Louis GPR Committee, and volunteered to write the levee reports for both states, since he had expertise and knowledge in that field. As Missouri’s Infrastructure Report Card was being finalized, preparation began for the announcement of the results. With the help of ASCE National, Boll brought together release events that included ASCE St. Louis and Kansas City members, the general public visiting the Capital in Jefferson City, and local and state officials.  Press interviews occurred to explain the significance of the findings.

In April, Missouri’s Infrastructure Report Card was released and 11 infrastructure chapters (aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, inland waterways, levees, ports, rail, roads, and stormwater & wastewater.) were summarized. The Report Card gave the state infrastructure an overall grade of C-, with no chapter receiving better than a C. Missouri roads dropped more than any other chapter, to a D+ from a C in its 2013 Report Card. The lowest grade in the Report Card was given to Missouri dams, which received a D-.

“Missouri’s infrastructure continues to muddle along at the status quo, but if we don’t increase investment soon we will start feeling the ramifications,” said Gallagher at the Missouri report card release.  “We have almost 5,000 bridges in Missouri that need repairs. While the grades indicate that the transportation network requires attention, if we allow it to languish, these assets will become a drag on the economy and more costly to repair.”

In June, the Kansas City and Kansas Sections and the Wichita Branch released report card grades for nine infrastructure categories. The Report Card was issued with an overall grade of C.  Levees and energy rose from a C- to a C, and investment in bridges and dams paid off with raising grades since the 2013 Report Card.  Aviation slipped to a C-, drinking water and rail remained at a C, and a new chapter to the Kansas Report Card, stormwater, received a C-.  The largest grade drop was roads that went from a C+ in 2013 to a C- in 2018.

“The categories that improved were thanks to recent increased funding, proving that when we invest, we see results,” said Sheryl Gallagher at the Kansas report card release.  “It’s time for the state to build on that momentum to ensure that, as America’s heartland, Kansas can deliver goods to market and grow our economy.”

Established more than 30 years ago, Geotechnology, Inc. is a professional corporation offering a comprehensive range of consulting services in applied earth and environmental sciences, including geophysics, water resource management, geotechnical and environmental engineering, materials testing and drilling. Geotechnology has provided expertise on thousands of major construction projects in the Midwest and Mid-South regions. Geotechnology is ranked #406 in ENR’s Top 500 Design Firms in 2018. Geotechnology, Inc. is based in St. Louis, Mo., and has 10 offices in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. For more information, visit www.geotechnology.com

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