Salvaging our failing infrastructure:A public works challenge
While politicians in Washington debate how to spend a budget surplus, the nation’s infrastructure continues to crumble. The price of fixing it: $1.3 trillion, according to the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
That price tag includes such infrastructure components as schools, dams and hazardous waste sites, but perhaps the most visible and immediately threatening decay is taking place on and below the country’s roadways. Americans love their automobiles, gas prices are cheap, and the economy is humming, so roads and bridges — many built decades ago when vehicles were lighter and fewer — are taking a pounding.
Moreover, aging water and wastewater pipes, which often spring leaks or burst open beneath city streets, worsen the problem. In cities large and small, water mains have broken, sewers have overflowed, contaminants have crept into drinking water, and roads have caved in. Even when infrastructure decay is not life-threatening, it still can be annoying and expensive to owners of motor vehicles when streets and country roads are pockmarked with potholes.
Public spending on infrastructure dropped from 3.6 percent of the Gross National Product in 1960 to 2.6 percent by 1985, according to the latest figures available from the Washington, D.C.-based Rebuild America Coalition. The coalition estimates that the nation needs to increase spending by $40 billion a year to improve road and bridge conditions, and $13.8 billion annually to improve wastewater operations, maintenance and construction. Additionally, EPA estimates that $76.8 billion is needed for immediate infrastructure improvements to maintain drinking water quality and protect public health.
About 59 percent of U.S. roadways are in poor, mediocre or fair condition, according to ASCE. Some bridges have been in full use despite the fact that they have needed repairs for years. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says about 31 percent of the nation’s 582,862 bridges are either deficient or functionally obsolete.
Many of those bridges are owned by counties, according to Bob Fogel, associate legislative director for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Counties (NACo). “There are a lot more bridges that are in bad condition on local roads than there are on the interstate system,” he says.
Earlier this year, the ASCE released its “report card” for America’s public infrastructure, giving an average grade of “D” for the various components, which include schools (F), roads and hazardous waste (both Dem.), drinking water and dams (both D), wastewater (D+), bridges, solid waste and aviation (all C), and mass transit (C). The grades were determined by a panel of civil engineering experts whose criteria included the condition and performance of each category, needs vs. capacity, and needs vs. available funding.
“When 1,200 people die each year from drinking tap water, our school buildings are literally crumbling, more than half of our roadways are in substandard condition, and we will face gridlock at our airports by the year 2004, it is fair to say our infrastructure is in pretty bad shape,” ASCE President Luther Graef said in a press release issued along with the association’s report card.
However, Jim Davis, ASCE executive director, says he thinks growing public awareness of the problem is a step in the right direction. “Everywhere I travel in this country, and even around the world, people have recognized the need to put money into infrastructure,” he says. “Really, when you get down to it, a crumbling infrastructure can’t support a healthy economy.”
Unglamorous spending Infrastructure problems often fester unnoticed until a major catastrophe occurs or public health is seriously jeopardized, making politicians, who generally prefer to spend money on visible, high-profile projects, reluctant to allocate money for repairs. The political “return” on investing in infrastructure is not as impressive as the accolades gained from constructing a gleaming new stadium, for example. “Infrastructure is not a glamorous (project),” Davis says. “It is not something where a politician can stand up and cut a ribbon.”
Instead, infrastructure maintenance spending is more like shelling out $400 to have a car’s timing belt replaced to avoid incurring $1,000 worth of damage down the road. The car may not start quicker, run better or look prettier, but the owner has peace of mind knowing that a major breakdown has been averted.
Infrastructure maintenance, while sometimes the responsibility of state transportation or highway departments, often falls on cities and counties (particularly if it involves drinking water or wastewater facilities). And, even if it does not, local entities still can feel the effects. Numerous examples of casualties or widespread damage serve to illustrate the point: * A 1993 cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee’s drinking water is believed to be responsible for killing more than 100 people and for making 400,000 people sick. Although the exact cause has not been determined, suspicion centers on Milwaukee’s old, outdated water treatment plant. Heavy rains in the spring of 1993 and the ensuing runoff from upstate dairy operations may have contributed to contamination of the plant’s reservoir, according to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources study.
* In Midtown Atlanta five years ago, following several days of heavy rains, a giant sinkhole swallowed up an entire parking lot, claiming two lives. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a 78-year-old sewer line had collapsed, the effluent apparently loosening unstable soil underneath the parking lot. City workers labored furiously around the clock to dig a trench from an adjacent parking lot to the bottom of the sinkhole, then hastily poured concrete walls and laid a stone foundation. Heavy equipment was put into the trench to reach the base of the 200-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep pit.
* Chicago has experienced two infrastructure-related floods in the past six years. The worst was in 1992, when a contractor accidentally drove a piling through the Chicago River bottom, causing a leak in one of the city’s underground freight tunnels. Water rushed into the 50-mile network of tunnels that was built at the turn of the century to provide underground freight service to stores and businesses. The water flooded sub-basements and disrupted utility service throughout the Loop business district.
* In Fort Worth, Texas, a 36-inch water main broke in the midst of July’s searing heat wave, leaving two major hospitals without water or air conditioning for nearly 12 hours. High demand for water, extremely dry conditions and metal fatigue were blamed, according to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Flooding at a pumping station and water treatment plant saturated motors and forced the plant to close down temporarily. Two hospitals were forced to use bottled water and disposable plates and utensils, while firefighters pumped water onto the hospitals’ coolant towers to keep air conditioning running. Less than 24 hours after that break was repaired, the same line ruptured again, further disrupting operations at hospitals and throughout the downtown area.
Mother Nature’s effects Even when age and neglect are not factors, adverse weather can batter infrastructure, snag traffic and saddle taxpayers with unanticipated repair bills in the millions of dollars. Last February, El Nino rains were blamed for extensive damage to a 70-mile stretch of California’s Highway 1, from 6 miles south of Carmel to the San Luis Obispo County line. Torrents of water washed away parts of the road and caused sinkholes and cracking in other parts, while culverts, which could have helped manage the mess, were plugged with branches and other debris. Disaster relief funds from the Federal Highway Administration paid for the $25 million in repairs.
Additionally, privately owned infrastructure can fail, too. And because it often is intertwined with public infrastructure, a failure involving private infrastructure, as may have been the case in Baltimore last November, can wreak havoc. Underneath a downtown intersection, a large sinkhole formed after something — either a steam pipe, water pipe, or sewer line; officials still are not certain — burst. The resulting collapse of manholes, conduits and other hardware triggered a natural gas explosion and fire that shot flames 50 feet into the air for several hours. Water, gas and sewer utilities as well as electric, telephone and cable TV service were disrupted. Without pointing fingers, city workers, contractors and private utility companies worked feverishly to repair the damage and managed to re-open the intersection three weeks later. The city spent nearly $2 million on the repairs, says spokesman Kurt Kocher.
Liability issues Cities and counties that fail to repair unsafe bridges or roads — or allow infrastructure to become unsafe through neglect — may open themselves up to lawsuits. “Infrastructure does play a role when we look into new risks,” says Robert Krall, risk control director for Chicago-based Coregis Insurance. The amount of money a local entity has earmarked for infrastructure maintenance, the existence of a maintenance plan and the number of people devoted to carrying out the plan are among the factors the company considers when evaluating a local government’s risk profile.
The age of infrastructure components is not as critical as those factors, Krall says. Municipal insurance companies can easily assess conditions of bridges and dams by tapping into an Army Corps of Engineers database. Insurers also may assign an inspector to check out a bridge or dam.
However, some bridges — particularly those included in the interstate highway system — may be owned and maintained by a state highway department or depa rtment of transportation, even if they are situated inside a city. Cities or counties generally would not be liable for failure of such bridges, says Mary Ann Kennedy, claims coordinator for municipal business at Coregis.
Paying the bill Safeguarding the public and reducing exposure to liability will require infrastructure investments as well as development of alternative methods of transportation. The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21), the new six-year intermodal transportation bill, addresses those needs. About $215 billion is earmarked for the bill, up from $157 billion for ISTEA. Roughly $175 billion of that will go toward roads and bridges, including $21.9 billion for the Federal Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, up from $16 billion under ISTEA.
“That is certainly a significant increase, but it still does not get us to a level where we can maintain road and bridge conditions,” says Bill Outlaw, communications director for The Road Information Program, based in Washington, D.C. “For decades, we’ve been underfunding the system.”
The bridge repair money is distributed to states based on a formula that multiplies the square footage of a state’s deficient bridges by the estimated cost to repair those bridges, according to NACo’s Fogel. Each state must spend between 15 and 35 percent of those funds on bridges located on local roads or minor rural collectors that are not eligible for federal aid funding. (Federal aid funding encompasses numerous specific authorizations, including the Interstate Maintenance Program, Surface Transportation Program and others.)
Under an agreement worked out by Congress, the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which generates revenues from gas and diesel fuel taxes to finance road and bridge improvements, finally will be available to fully fund those improvements. Created in 1956 as an independent fund, it became part of the unified federal budget in 1968. After decades of political bickering that prevented Washington from spending down the trust fund, it now will finance highway and bridge repairs on a “pay as you go” basis.
State departments of transportation generally will grant TEA 21 allocations to urban areas with populations over 200,000, but smaller communities usually will need to apply for funds. The process varies from state to state.
While local officials will get plenty of help from Uncle Sam for streets and bridges, financing for sewer and water refurbishments remains largely a local issue. Bond issues and a variety of funding mechanisms, including developer impact fees and community facilities districts, typically generate capital for water and wastewater projects. Federal regulations like the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act often are the impetus for communities to find ways to finance water and wastewater improvements.
Reasons for optimism ASCE’s Davis says TEA 21’s funding increases, reduced defense spending, gas tax hikes in several states and the private sector’s increasing role in building infrastructure bode well for the future of infrastructure. Moreover, he believes that, since Congress and the president have implemented welfare reform and worked out a deal on Medicare, they will devote more attention to infrastructure. “Our elected representatives are not dumb people,” Davis says. “They may act stupid at times, but they know they have to invest in infrastructure.”
Also on a positive note, advances in technology have brought down the cost of some needed repairs. Trenchless technology, for example, which includes a variety of materials and techniques, such as cured-in-place pipe, fold-and-formed pipe and slip-lining, has been around for more than 15 years.
The processes have been refined and increasingly are being used as affordable ways to refurbish underground water and sewer lines. High-tech monitoring methods such as seismic resonance testing help detect trouble at an early stage so affordable remedial action can be taken. Additionally, theEPA’s recent emphasis on protecting watersheds and reducing nonpoint source runo ff may well ease the burden on water and wastewater treatment plants.
Although refurbishing infrastructure will cost more than it would have had the infrastructure been properly maintained, the healthy economy, technological advances and the will of the people all can aid the effort. So will the Highway Trust Fund, which ensures that those who get the most use out of roads and bridges also will contribute the most toward their upkeep.
Davis maintains that much of the infrastructure already in place has lasted much longer than it was intended to, which he says is a testament to the accomplishments of civil engineers. He urges governmental leaders to continue to make the case for infrastructure refurbishments to the public and to keep the public informed without getting bogged down in technical details.
For more information on the products and services available to help with infrastructure maintenance and rehabilitation, see American City & County’s 1998-99 Municipal Index.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) in Greeley, Colo., has become the first department in the nation to achieve national accreditation from the Kansas City, Mo.-based American Public Works Association (APWA). The entire process, involving self-assessment, implementation of improvements and a site visit by APWA officials, was not easy, but officials expect it to pay big dividends in the future.
Greeley has a population of 70,000 and encompasses 28 square miles. The city borders the front range of the Rocky Mountains about 60 miles north of Denver. Its DPW is divided into seven service delivery teams: building maintenance, transit services, administration, engineering, street/drainage maintenance, traffic operations and equipment maintenance.
The department has a full-time staff of 130 employees and an operating budget of $9.9 million. Its mission is to provide for the design, construction, maintenance and operation of infrastructure that is critical to the safe and efficient movement of pedestrians, traffic, goods and emergency services. Additionally, the department is responsible for a $5 million annual capital improvement budget.
The APWA emphasizes a voluntary approach to accreditation, a process by which a municipality may objectively verify and maintain high quality in its public works operations. Periodic evaluations are conducted by an independent agency using established Best Management Practices. The accreditation process involves three steps: self-assessment, improvement and accreditation.
In January 1996, Greeley’s DPW developed two internal staff committees for the accreditation project. A steering committee provided the overall direction, support and review for the project and ensured that the project supported the total quality management efforts of the department. An assessment committee was made up of line employees from each service delivery team and was charged with reviewing and assessing each of the 460 Best Management Practices, developing and gathering documentation, and keeping department employees informed of the process.
A self-assessment process benefits a public works department because it can: * improve effectiveness; * promote staff and community pride; * clarify budget needs; * identify operation and management needs; * enhance the department’s professional image; * promote teamwork and staff development; * encourage interdepartmental coordination; * identify duplication and wasted effort; * promote public awareness; * improve communication; and * assist the agency in preparing for accreditation. The DPW took about a year to complete its self-assessment. By the end of the process, the assessment committee had determined that the department: * was doing a lot of things right; * was setting the stage for major improvements; * had provided positive teamwork experience; * had developed a greater understanding by team members and employees of the department’s responsibilities; and * had much to do before applying for accreditation.
In March 1997, Greeley submitted the results of its self-assessment to APWA for review and recognition. Those results showed that, of the 460 Best Management Practices, 369 were applicable to the DPW. The DPW determined that it was in “full or substantial compliance” with 294 of the 369 relevant practices.
Two months later, the APWA recognized Greeley’s DPW as the first in the nation to complete APWA’s self-assessment process. In a letter to the DPW, Dennis Ross, director of professional development for APWA, lauded the department for having already met 80 percent of the recommended practices and for putting in place an aggressive plan to meet the remaining 20 percent.
With the self-assessment completed, the DPW moved into the improvement phase. “Our mission was to come into compliance with APWA management practices,” says Jerry Trujillo, a member of the assessment committee. “As time went by, we encountered difficult times, frustrations, conflict and the mobility of committee members.”
In June 1997, the department made formal application for accreditation. Two months later, a five-member APWA team visited Greeley and, after assessing the DPW, granted provisional accreditation. The review team provided the department with a report and specific directions to complete the accreditation, and it gave the department 90 days to correct the remaining deficiencies.
The department received full accreditation in October 1997, nearly two years after it had adopted that goal. “Achieving accreditation required a major effort on everyone’s part and involved every employee in the department in one way or another,” says Gary Taylor, who chaired the assessment committee. “As a team, we reviewed each area of responsibility. Through this process the employees have a greater understanding of public works and its role in the community.”
Accreditation is awarded for a three-year period; after three years, an accreditation team will revisit the agency and review its status in a manner similar to that of the initial accreditation review. As a condition of accreditation, an annual report must be submitted to APWA.
This article was written by William Sterling, public works director for Greeley, Colo.
Phoenix has saved millions of dollars through a restructuring program and a hiring freeze in its Water Services Department (WSD). So far, the two-year-old PALM (Participative Association of Labor and Management) Team has helped the city save $3 million annually, in reduced chemical and electrical costs, in conjunction with fewer employees on the payroll.
PALM consists of WSD management and representatives of two unions: the Administrative, Supervisory, Professional and Technical Employees Association (ASPTEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Supervisors as well as personnel from operations and maintenance have driven the re-engineering process, making numerous recommendations for improving operational efficiency and cutting costs.
Already two-thirds of the way through the three-phase re-engineering process, the WSD intends to enter the new millennium with best-in-class practices while adhering to its values of enhanced customer service and environmental excellence. To achieve best-in-class status, the utility is studying and competing against benchmarks and practices in high-functioning public utilities, as well as against those in the private sector.
PALM members have visited utilities in Indianapolis, Charlotte, N.C., and Colorado Springs, Colo., to witness first-hand the different approaches to becoming more competitive. The site visits afforded them the opportunity to observe successful competitive practices and to gauge the merits of each method.
It all started when interest from contract operators, along with planned upgrades and expansion of its treatment facilities, prompted the WSD to scrutinize its organizational structure, work practices, and information and control technology infrastructure. The department hired the St. Paul, Minn.-based consulting firm EMA Services to lead it through the re-engineering with a competitiveness assessment, a planning process and an implementation plan.
The competitiveness assessment showed that substantial savings could be realized by embracing Best Management Practices. Re-engineering team participants developed a competitiveness plan to implement performance measurement, organizational development, new work practices and enhanced technology infrastructure. The goals were to: * become as cost-effective as the most efficient businesses, including contract operators; * re-engineer with no involuntary loss of jobs; * maintain or improve required service levels, product quality standards and environmental protection; * minimize staff increases while expanding and upgrading facilities; * review all cost areas that affect the enterprise fund; * minimize future rate increases to low single digits or less; and * achieve environmental management excellence.
The second phase of the re-engineering, the planning process, involved such steps as team formation, plan development, methods of refinement and “object mapping,” an analysis method by which every water utility element — physical resources as well as processes and human and financial resources — is identified as an object. The objects comprise a model that is used to examine various functions and processes and to clarify relationships among them. Steps taken during the planning process were documented and presented to city leaders for their approval.
Throughout the re-engineering process, project communication was a crucial element, so the Communication Team developed a plan to involve all stakeholders in the project. The PALM newsletter, a toll-free information hotline and monthly information meetings at all sites helped explain and update WSD’s re-engineering initiative. Information kiosks, as well as minutes from meetings and special events briefings, also were used.
Quick, visible progress was needed to reinforce the idea that savings were real and attainable, so teams quickly set about optimizing electrical maintenance resources and operations staffing levels. The latter was made possible by recent upgrades to control systems and changes in practices.
Additionally, sludge hauling was streamlined, redundant supervisory staff were redeployed, and energy and chemical management were improved. WSD’s re-engineering project now is in the third phase, or implementation, with a goal of completion by mid-2000.
The public works toolkit is getting larger as cities and counties gain access to the World Wide Web. The Web’s accessibility, immediacy and efficiency allow public officials to get information to and from citizens, share data among project team members and streamline administrative functions for large-scale projects.
When Muncie-Delaware County, Ind., embarked on a 15-month, comprehensive planning process to guide community growth into the 21st century, its steering committee understood that engaging the public would be critical to the plan’s success. The usual strategy of holding regular public meetings, though, seemed unlikely to draw out public opinion.
“We recognized that a public meeting forum is, in this day and age, not very well-attended, especially when you’re dealing with a broad concept and not a specific issue,” says Marta Moody, director of the Delaware County/Muncie Metropolitan Plan Commission. “The idea of a Web site really appealed to us in terms of its being another medium to gather public input and spread the word about the planning process. It allows us to get input from a large segment of the population that doesn’t have the time or the inclination to attend a public forum.”
The Muncie-Delaware County Comprehensive Plan Home Page (www.mdc compplan.com), launched in June, helps explain the planning process and encourages citizens to participate. In-depth content answers questions about comprehensive planning, why it is important and what objectives the commission hopes to accomplish.
E-mail links enable citizens to contact the project team, headed by HNTB, Indianapolis, and an online survey solicits feedback on quality-of-life issues. “This isn’t a process where we need to pay attention to statistical significance,” Moody says. “We need any and all input for developing the comprehensive plan. I’m excited about the survey being on the Web site, because it’s that much more information that we can gather.”
To promote the site, the commission has issued a press release, created links to the site from the local chamber of commerce and newspaper, and bookmarked it in public library terminals with Internet access. Posters for schools and other public venues also are in the works.
Although the Web is useful in comprehensive planning efforts, individual projects, too, can be furthered by development of a site. For instance, the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) is using a Web site for the first time to encourage communication among its team members for a bridge design project on Highway 16 over Hell Canyon.
Running east and west through the picturesque Black Hills, the highway is the main tourist route to Mount Rushmore National Monument. “This is a landmark project — we don’t have anything like it in the state,” says Kevin Goeden, responsible for bridge design engineering for SDDOT. “We’re using the Web site as an informational tool, to keep the office up to speed on the project’s status.”
For the bridge concept study and preliminary design phases, the project Web site (www.hntb.com/sddot/hellcanyon) illustrates the 10 bridge-type alternatives and the four structures selected for preliminary design. The site also provides a secure FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server for electronic file exchange and an e-mail directory that enables project team members to send messages to multiple recipients. Using FTP, team members across the country can provide a user name and password to access the server, then upload files from their computers and download files from the server.
“The FTP part of the site is the real management tool,” Goeden says. “We get faster response than going through the mail. And the electronic drawings are better quality than a fax.”
Electronic file transfer can be critical to some projects. The $994 million improvement program at Salt Lake City International Airport is a good example. Initiated last year in preparation for the city’s hosting of the 2002 Olympics, the program involves dozens of subconsultants. A project Web site (www.hntb-slcia.com) is streamlining the subconsultant selection process; Requests for Qualifications are posted on the Web, subconsultants are notified via e-mail, and Statements of Qualification (SOQs) come in via the Web site’s secure server.
Salt Lake City-based Forsgren Associates was the first to successfully negotiate the process in May. “Compared to how we’ve done SOQs before, which would take months, it made the process go faster,” says Kyle Cook, the firm’s survey director.
Reports indicate that traffic on the Web doubles every 100 days. Public works departments are poised to take advantage of that traffic. Those that successfully use the Web are finding that it can make their projects go more smoothly.
Richmond, Va., is a city rich in history. The Kanawha and Haxall Canals, designed by George Washington more than 200 years ago to link the Ohio River Valley with the Atlantic Ocean, are a big part of that history.
In an effort to rejuvenate the central city, Richmond’s leaders decided in the early 1990s to undertake an ambitious canal restoration project scheduled for completion this fall. That project in itself would have been daunting, but, at the same time, the federal government imposed new challenges.
At about the same time, EPA ordered Richmond to correct its combined sewer overflow system. (The city’s system is similar to those in more than 1,000 other cities.) Heavy, prolonged rains would invariably cause the sewers to overflow and discharge directly into the James River. Correcting the overflow problem meant building a 96-inch pipe with detention basins to handle the excess stormwater. The question was: Where would the city put the pipe?
The Richmond Riverfront Development Corp. (RRDC) was created to oversee restoration and development of the canals. During a planning session of the city’s utility department and the RRDC, city officials decided they could kill two birds with one stone by placing the new stormwater pipe in the center of the Haxall Canal, which runs parallel to the James River through downtown.
Following the plan’s approval, the Commonwealth of Virginia Transportation Board put up $1 million, the governor pledged $6 million and the city of Richmond allocated $38 million to the project. In addition, five riverfront property owners — Dominion Lands, Reynolds Metals, the Lady Bird Co., Ethyl Corp. and Norfolk Southern — donated sections of their land along the Haxall Canal.
Chicago-based Greeley & Hansen was selected as the lead engineering firm for the combined sewer improvement project. Philadelphia-based Wallace, Roberts & Todd was chosen as architectural firm for the canal restoration project.
In 1996, a little more than 200 years after the first survey for the Haxal Canal was made, survey work began on the reconstruction project. It did not take long for the project team to appreciate the challenges the project’s location, configuration and history posed.
The need to conduct blasting in the center of the city, for example, meant taking extra precautions. Crews relied on blasting to excavate 30 feet under the canal so the stormwater pipe could be laid. Often, the blasting took place within 50 feet of structures such as a 40-inch water line that serves three counties, railroad tracks, a Virginia Power substation and an old canal wall built in the mid-1800s.
“Blasting was our number one concern,” says Terry White of Omaha, Neb.-based Kiewit Construction, the general contractor. The firm was responsible for installing 7,000 linear feet — 1.3 miles — of sewer line 30 feet below ground and for preparing the conveyance system pipe that would carry sewage underground so that it would not discharge into the river. To ensure that the surrounding structures were undamaged, surveyor Greg White of Blacksburg, Va.-based Draper Aden Associates surveyed each of the buildings along the canal after each blast.
In addition to taking blasting precautions, surveyors were wary of the chest-deep, snake-infested water in the canal. A year after the project began, the water had been drained, but a high water table continued to saturate the ground. An underground slurry wall helped alleviate the water seepage problem.
Congested work space also posed a challenge. The project area was 7,000 feet long, but only 100 to 200 feet wide. During the week, the canal was crowded with construction personnel, trucks backhoes, cranes and other heavy equipment. Each 12-foot section of the 96-inch pipe that was installed weighed 24 tons, further compounding the team’s difficulties.
Along with engineering, the project involved removing/preserving artifacts found in the digging. “If an artifact of cultural significance is found, it’s important that you have a system in place to handle it,” says James McCarthy, executive director of the RRDC. “We have on call an historian and an architect who can come out and examine what’s found. If workers find anything of historical significance, the Virginia Historical Society and the Archeological Society of Virginia are contacted to send someone to the site to examine the discovery.” Thus far, workers have found some pottery, old shoes and two archimedes screws.
As RRDC executive director, McCarthy oversees the project and is in charge of development of the land along the canal system. The 32-acre riverfront development project stretches along a 1-mile corridor from the historic Tredegar Iron Works site at 5th Street to 17th Street on the east. In addition, the redevelopment project includes a major turning basin surrounded by restaurants, hotels, shops and offices.About 10 acres of pedestr ian walkways, plazas and terraces provide easy access to and throughout the riverfront area. The remaining 22 acres will have commercial development to include office, retail, hotel, restaurant and residential uses.
The project is expected to generate $450 million in private, commercial and residential development during the next 10 years. That could mean as much as $10 million annually in taxes to the city and 6,000 jobs for local residents.