In mid-February, ACMA held its second annual Infrastructure Day fly-in event in Washington, D.C. Nearly 40 composites company owners and managers headed to Capitol Hill for the three-day event. Participants conducted approximately 90 meetings with policymakers who represent major composites plant locations or serve on key House and Senate panels that direct federal infrastructure policies. This year’s event featured twice as many participants and more than three times as many policy meetings than last year’s inaugural event.
While policy development is deeply complex, our message can be boiled down to something very simple. We can continue building critical public assets the same way we always have and expect the same pitfalls our crumbling system currently faces, or we can use modern technologies to build 21st century infrastructure that last longer, performs better, has a lower environmental footprint and costs significantly less over the course of its life. As always however, the devil is in the details. So, let’s unpack a few of the industry’s key messages.
In 2016, both parties committed to a significant investment in modernizing America’s broken infrastructure during election campaigns. While many such promises are often broken, we learned through our engagement with Congress during Infrastructure Day that both parties are focused on advancing significant infrastructure legislation and that President Trump is equally committed to seeing this completed. As part of this effort, ACMA members put forth some specific proposals that were warmly received.
ACMA has proposed the creation of a new program out of the Department of Transportation that focuses specifically on the rapid deployment of pre-fabricated short and medium span bridges. One of the great benefits of composite bridge components is their ability to be fully fabricated offsite and installed in a way that greatly limits the disruption of traffic and economic activity. Projects constructed with traditional materials that once took weeks or months to install can be completed with composites in a matter of hours. This keeps installation costs lower and gets people moving faster, while capitalizing on the superior performance and durability of composite materials. We recognize composites are not the only materials in town, but such an effort allows us to play to our strengths and compete on an even field.
There’s more to our infrastructure agenda than just bridges, however. In coastal areas, due to environmental constraints and severe weather, virtually all critical infrastructure is at risk. ACMA has proposed a broad coastal infrastructure resiliency program. Water treatment and delivery systems, dams and other maritime structures, utility poles, crossarms and bridges need to be built to stronger performance requirements. Composites allow asset owners to meet performance demands and build structures that can last a century rather than a decade.