Finally: Proposed legislation promotes composites for infrastructure

ACMA has announced that Congress has introduced new legislation to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction techniques and materials in infrastructure.

It’s long overdue. After nearly 20 years of CW coverage about composites for infrastructure — in bridges, concrete formwork, piping, electrical transmission towers, and more — our government has taken notice of composites for streamlining and ultimately saving money on all aspects of infrastructure projects, thanks in large part to the persistent efforts of the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA). On August 2, ACMA announced that both chambers of Congress have introduced new legislation to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction techniques and materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. According to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s (D-RI) web page, investing in these new techniques and materials would help to extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings for condition and performance.

The legislative bill, known as the Innovative Materials for America's Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (or IMAGINE), was introduced in the Senate by Whitehouse, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and in the House of Representatives by Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), and David Cicilline (D-R.I.). It is designed to promote the increased use of innovative materials like FRP composites, as well as new manufacturing methods to speed up the deployment and extend the life of infrastructure projects.

"As Congress and the Trump administration look for ways to modernize our national infrastructure network, composite materials have a number of advantages over legacy materials, which uniquely position our industry to deliver solutions to these major national priorities," says Tom Dobbins, ACMA president. "Congress must now consider whether to rebuild American infrastructure with 20th century solutions unable to deliver the performance needed to drive today's society and economy, or deploy the best materials available in the 21st century that last longer, require far less maintenance, and are easier to install."

Specifically, says ACMA, the bill calls for:

  • Reforms to existing highway programs to incentivize the use of innovative materials
  • Creation of an interagency task force for standards development for innovative composites
  • Authorization of a new Innovative Bridge Program at the Federal Highway Administration and Innovative Water Infrastructure Program at the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the creation of "Innovative Material Innovation Hubs."

The introduction of the bill comes after months of advocacy by members of the composites industry and other groups. During this time, ACMA member companies met with Members of Congress to advocate for the benefits of composites, such as their corrosion resistance, ease of installation, extreme weather resilience and superior service life. During these meetings, ACMA helped congressional leaders understand the need for legislation that includes federal investment toward the study and deployment of projects that utilize cutting edge materials like FRP composites.

This is certainly a big step in the right direction for our industry.