By Andrew Aho
The geosynthetics industry has long sought a federal study of the cost-and-benefits of geosynthetic materials in roadway systems.
Numerous industry and academic studies, papers, and articles regarding the cost-benefit of geosynthetics have been produced during the last three decades. However, federal government validation has been missing.
GMA proposed a federal study that would look at the current body of data and develop a consensus or consolidation of the myriad studies. GMA’s lobbying team took up the issue in 2009, seeking a method for the study to be both funded and conducted by the federal government.
When Congress banned the use of “earmarks,” our lobbying team took a different approach. Discussions with the House Transportation Committee resulted in a sensible idea—last fall, two members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), asking that office to conduct the study.
It is our expectation that the report will be effective and positive in demonstrating how the use of geosynthetic materials can improve the quality of infrastructure while reducing maintenance costs, increasing longevity, and simultaneously increasing the overall effectiveness of the taxpayer’s dollar.
We expect that the completed report will be instrumental in motivating the Federal Department of Transportation, state DOTs, and other entities to use the most modern and cost-effective methods in their construction and infrastructure projects and will benefit their constituencies, our country, and our industry.
The coauthors of the letter were Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), both members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Rep. Duncan also serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, and Rep. LoBiondo is chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
The letter from Duncan and LoBiondo to the GAO highlighted the data available to complete a cost-benefit study:
Because there is ample academic, industry, and state department of transportation information publicly available that the GAO can use to complete the study, the study should incorporate existing research and data concerning the use of innovative materials in payment systems, such as the addition of geosynthetic materials in pavement systems.
(Oct. 13, 2011, Duncan/LoBiondo letter to GAO)
GMA compiled data for the study by reaching out to the geosynthetic industry for case studies, peer reviewed papers, and other documents that demonstrate the cost-benefit of using geosynthetic materials in roadways. The collection of data was then shared with both the GAO and the staff of the House Transportation Committee.
We anticipate the positive results this spring.