Highway Bill to Revive Analysis of Bridges Made with Composites

Piyali Das Press Releases

Oct. 23, 2015, (Arlington, Va.) – A provision to assess bridges constructed under the Innovative Bridge Research and Construction (IBRC) Program, including those utilizing composites, will be included in the House Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act. The provision, sponsored by Reps. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT-5) and Barbara Comstock (R-VA-10), received unanimous approval from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Companion language also passed in the Senate earlier this summer.

ACMA applauds the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s unanimous approval of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act.

“We feel this study will provide federal, state, and local asset owners with needed information on best in class technology as they build the next generation of American infrastructure,” said Tom Dobbins, president of ACMA. “Overall, the House highway bill will go a long way toward providing certainty for companies in the infrastructure business and bringing needed improvements to our national road and bridge system.”

Back in 1998, Congress took a step toward reducing highway bridge construction, maintenance time and costs by directing the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to establish the IBRC. Congress allocated $150 million toward helping local and country road agencies and State DOTs reduce the cost of incorporating innovative materials in bridge repair, rehabilitation, replacement and new construction.

Congress created the IBRC to develop new cost-effective, innovative material highway bridge applications and the reduction of maintenance and lifecycle costs of bridges. From 1999 through 2004, FHWA provided IBRC funding for more than 300 bridge projects across the country, with more than half employing composites. However, the FHWA had stopped tracking the performance of IBRC-funded bridges. This made it difficult to assess the effectiveness of innovative materials such as composites in those bridges.

The newly-approved provision to the Highway bill will direct FHWA to contract with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to assess the overall performance of the bridges built under the IBRC and the performance, compared to conventional materials and technologies, of each of the innovative materials and technologies used. The study will also provide commendations to Congress on how the installed and lifecycle costs of bridges could be reduced through the use of these innovative materials and technologies.