During the American Composites Manufacturers Association’s (ACMA) annual infrastructure policy fly-in event, members from the composites industry had the opportunity to gain an inside perspective about strategic objectives to address America’s infrastructure during the Trump Administration.

The session began with an overview of the infrastructure policy landscape from Alex Herrgott, the associate director of infrastructure at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. According to Herrgott, the overall purpose of the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan is to provide supplemental funding that leverages state, local and private investment on top of America’s existing programs to simultaneously fix our infrastructure while growing the economy. In addition to the funding, Herrgott noted the plan calls for new performance requirements for infrastructure projects that take factors like revenue generation and technology life cycle analyses into consideration.

Herrgott was quick to note, however, that the purpose of the new plan is not to replace existing programs set forth in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act and the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

The FAST Act includes language that directs the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to contract with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to study the overall performance of more than 300 bridges built under the Innovative Bridge Research and Construction (IBRC) program. Half of those bridges were made with composites. During the session, Joey Hartmann, Director of the Office of Bridges and Structures at FHWA, predicted that by the end of the year, the agency will have results from the study.

The session also included insight on the permitting process from Ed Mortimer, Executive Director of Transportation Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Mortimer noted that in order to provide clarity as to what the business community wants in an infrastructure plan, the Chamber outlined a proposal that calls for:

  1. A 25 cent increase in the federal fuel tax
  2. Creation of a large, discretionary grant program for complex infrastructure projects
  3. Codifying the president’s “One Federal Decision” executive order from August 2017 that directs the federal government to complete all federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within two years
  4. A call for any state or locality that wants to utilize federal funds to meet the federal permitting requirements
  5. Expansion of the workforce through federally incentivized apprenticeship programs

Jim Tymon, Chief Operating Officer and the Director of Policy and Management at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), noted that while a gas tax increase may work in short- and medium-term, the government needs to consider a long-term issue in revitalizing our infrastructure – the increasing electrification of vehicles. He also noted that large discretionary grant programs are often slow to roll out.