For centuries, America has relied on wood, steel and concrete to build its infrastructure. But while these traditional materials dominate the market, they are susceptible to corrosion, degradation and deterioration. In many cases, composites have the characteristics to serve as a replacement to traditional materials used in roads, bridges, dams and pipelines.
Although composites have the potential to improve our nation’s infrastructure, one of the biggest obstacles the composites industry has faced is a lack of data about how composites perform. Without reliable data, engineers and designers cannot confidently build bridges with composites. From 1999 through 2004, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had provided funding to study bridges made with composites. But soon after that, the FHWA had stopped tracking their performance. This made it difficult to assess the effectiveness of composites in those bridges, and as a result, composites have struggled to compete against traditional materials in infrastructure.
However, thanks to ACMA’s work with both chambers of Congress, the study was revived as part of the 2015 highway bill. The study will not only assess the performance of the bridges made with composites, it will also compare them to bridges built with conventional materials and technologies. The study will also provide recommendations to Congress on how the installed lifecycle costs of bridges could be reduced through the use of composites.
The following year, ACMA scored another legislative victory with the Water Resources Development Act – Title I of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. ACMA worked to ensure the legislation included a directive to the Army Corps of Engineers to study the performance of composites and other innovative materials in water resources projects.
Both of these victories would not have been possible without groundwork laid during ACMA’s annual Infrastructure Day – the association’s signature advocacy affairs event that allows association staff and members to tell their stories and to advocate for policies that benefit the composites industry.
“ACMA’s Infrastructure Day on Capitol Hill allowed us to educate our congressional leaders about the benefits that our materials and technology offer for infrastructure applications,” says Scott Reeve, President of ACMA member Composite Advantage. “Visiting key offices every year demonstrates to the elected officials and staffer that we are serious about our message. It is also important that we, as businesses and taxpayers, remind them of their oversight duties to ensure that provisions of the FAST Act and WRDA pertaining to new technologies are carried out by the responsible federal agencies.”