As the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee considers how to reenact the bill, ACMA is working to insert language stressing the importance of life cycle costs in transportation projects. ACMA officials and member companies have met with members of Congress to discuss the benefits of composites. They also held a briefing for the Congressional Composites Caucus in late 2009.
“We’re pushing for the transportation bill to provide incentives for the highway community to look at composites,” says Tom Dobbins, CAE, chief staff executive of ACMA. “We see an opportunity for the composites industry to make a valuable and lasting contribution to America’s infrastructure.”
Passing a new transportation bill would open the gates for construction projects and create jobs, says Busel. Manufacturers such as Composite Advantage aren’t currently feeling the pinch: It’s installing bridges using funds allocated five to 10 years ago. But Reeve says design work has slowed and his company will be impacted in a few years from the ripple effect that causes. “When the bill is finally passed, there will still be years before any related construction gets done,” he says.
Dobbins hopes that a sense of urgency about repairing the nation’s decaying infrastructure, coupled with the fact that transportation bills have been historically bipartisan, will propel Congress to vote on a bill soon. “If we are successful in working with members of Congress to make changes in the current law to level the playing field for composites, it could open up a huge market for companies in the industry,” says Dobbins. “And, ultimately, it would give the American people a better, longer-lasting transportation infrastructure.”
Strategies for Success
While a composites-friendly transportation bill would move the industry forward, there are other ways to gain market share in the transportation infrastructure arena. It starts with education. Triandafilou encourages companies and organizations such as ACMA to teach engineers and designers about composites through webinars, conferences, tutorials and other avenues. Richards adds that it’s important to educate elected officials and the tax-paying public, too.
Marshall Composite Technologies partnered with the Civil Engineering Department at Widener University in Chester, Pa., on a student FRP rebar competition. The Salem, Ore., manufacturer mailed approximately 60 rebar kits to students, who then designed a structure that will be evaluated at an American Concrete Institute meeting. “It’s a grassroots approach to educate upcoming engineers,” says Cameron Crawford, managing partner for Marshall. His company has supplied FRP rebar for seawalls in southern Florida and bridge decks throughout the Midwest and Canada.