Provisions of the ACMA-supported IMAGINE Act will be considered for inclusion in major infrastructure legislation expected to be passed early in 2021. The legislation – making substantial investments in roads and highways, water and wastewater, energy and aviation – will be part of a package of bills aiming to provide a strong stimulus for economic recovery.

Congressional leaders want the legislation to drive a significant improvement in infrastructure longevity and decrease life cycle costs. A key House committee chair has called for the construction of highway bridges providing 100 years of service without needing significant maintenance or repair.

The legislation promotes the use of innovative materials, defined to include materials or combinations and processes for the use of materials that enhance the overall service life, sustainability and resiliency of the project or provide ancillary benefits relative to widely adopted state of practice technologies, as determined by the appropriate U.S. Cabinet secretary or agency head.

If enacted as part of the 2021 stimulus package, the IMAGINE Act will require the following:

  • $520 million will be allocated over the next four years by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to construct highway and water infrastructure projects using innovative materials.
  • The DOT will rework basic highway bridge designs to improve performance by using innovative materials.
  • A high-level federal task group – comprising the DOT, EPA, Army Corps of Engineers and the National Institute of Standards and Technology – will work with standards-setting organizations to improve the development, use and effectiveness of standards in driving the improved performance of America’s infrastructure.
  • Research on innovative materials will be a priority for the Federal Highway Administration’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center.
  • DOT-supported Innovative Material Innovation Hubs will be created at educational institutions to address R&D needs identified by infrastructure owners, industry and other stakeholders.

Since 2010, ACMA’s advocacy program has aimed to increase the use of composites in infrastructure. With the support and participation of ACMA members, the association succeeded in gaining provisions in major bills enacted by Congress and signed by the president. A partial list of ACMA’s legislative successes is provided in the table.

The IMAGINE Act builds on the earlier successes. Congress now recognizes both the need for dramatic improvements in the durability and sustainability of America’s built assets and the improvements possible using composites and other innovative materials. ACMA’s message to Congress continues to be that the widespread use of durable and lightweight composites, with lower entrained energy than competing materials, will significantly advance Congress’ infrastructure objectives.

EnactedBillACMA-supported Provisions
2011MAP-21 Highway reauthorizationRequired Transportation Department to establish asset management standards for federally funded highway projects
2012Water Resources Development ActEncouraging use of innovative materials by Army Corps of Engineers
2014Water Resources Development ActAdditional requirements for the Corps to consider composites for waterway projects
2015FAST Act Highway reauthorizationRequired DOT to study the performance of bridges constructed 1999-2004 using composites and other materials; the study was completed in 2019
2016Water Resources Development ActRequired the Corps to study composites and other innovative materials
2018Water Resources Development ActReaffirmed requirement for the Corps to study composites and other innovative materials
2019Disaster relief for Puerto RicoAmended federal disaster aid requirements to allow damaged assets such as utility poles, bridges and buildings to be replaced with better-performing structures made with composites