At a Composites Caucus briefing on Capitol Hill this morning, staff from congressional representatives’ offices questioned members of the Transportation Structures Council (TSC) about the use of composites in infrastructure applications.

The TSC is a division of the American Composites Manufacturers Association. Dr. Dan Richards, president of ZellComp Inc. and Charles McClaskey, a consultant to the industry, represented the TSC and fielded questions from staffers about the differences between composites and traditional materials, such as steel and concrete. Among the questions asked by staffers were why composites tend to cost more and how labor intensive the manufacturing processes are compared to steel manufacturing.

Richards and McClaskey opened the briefing by sharing case studies that illustrate the successful use of composites bridge decks and the use of carbon fiber wraps to repair concrete in bridges. They explained their difficulty in getting transportation officials to adopt composites because of procurement rules that favor low bids based on upfront cost rather than lifecycle cost. They encouraged representatives to support language in a surface transportation reauthorization bill that would require states to use life-cycle costing for construction of transportation structures.

The Composites Caucus is a bi-partisan group of 26 representatives co-chaired by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA). The purpose of the caucus is to act as a vehicle for Congress to work with stakeholders on issues affecting the composites industry.