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Senators and House members introduce bill to spur use of innovative infrastructure materials, GMA plays key role

GMA News, News | August 3, 2018 | By:

Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; and Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced on Aug. 2 the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded (IMAGINE) Act, to encourage research and deployment of innovative construction materials in transportation and water infrastructure projects nationwide. Investing in these new techniques and materials would help extend the life of critical public works that draw increasingly poor ratings.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Photograph courtesy of the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

The bill would take a number of steps to promote the use of advanced infrastructure materials. It would create a task force to examine standards and methods used to assess the federal government’s approval of materials for infrastructure projects. It would promote research into new materials and building techniques. And it would spur federal investment in vital bridge and water infrastructure projects that utilize innovative materials, prioritizing coastal and rural projects.

“American innovators have come up with materials with the potential to make our roads, bridges, water systems, and other important infrastructure far more resilient and safe,” Whitehouse said. “Using these materials in our public works will pay off big for the communities that rely on them and for the American taxpayer. I’m proud to join Sens. Alexander, Rounds and Booker to help drive investment in the next generation of materials to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”

Alexander said, “Good roads and zero road debt have helped attract manufacturing jobs and raise family incomes [in Tennessee]. Research universities and national laboratories are our country’s ‘secret weapons’— and this bill will help them develop new materials to improve our nation’s roads and bridges so we can continue to create more good-paying jobs.”

“I strongly support investing in material research and the use of new technologies that can be used to improve our critical infrastructure,” Rounds added. “As we continue to work toward a long-term infrastructure plan that enhances public safety, creates jobs and strengthens our economy, our bill will help pave the way for a stronger, safer and more cost-effective infrastructure system.”

The IMAGINE Act would encourage the development of materials such as high-performance asphalt mixtures and concrete formulations, geosynthetic materials, advanced alloys and metals, reinforced polymer composites, aggregate materials and advanced polymers.

A section-by-section summary of the bill is available here.

A copy of the bill is available here.

A range of stakeholders from innovative materials industries cheered introduction of the bill. The American Chemistry Council, the American Coatings Association, the American Composites Manufacturers Association, the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA), LafargeHolcim, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the Owens Corning Plastics Industry Association and the Vinyl Institute welcomed introduction of the bill in a letter to the senators sent this week.

GMA played a key role in advocating for geosynthetics language in the bill introduced in the Senate.

John Henderson, president of TenCate Geosynthetics and a member of the Geosynthetic Materials Association (GMA) executive council, said, “The United States has historically been at the forefront of development and implementation of innovative materials used in road construction. The IMAGINE Act is critically important legislation that will continue to advance our nation’s infrastructure system and encourage the development of innovative techniques and materials. I thank Sen. Whitehouse for his leadership in advocating for real solutions that will sustain our nation’s economy.”

“The IMAGINE Act will be a huge leap forward for the innovative materials companies working in the transportation and water resources industries,” Jonathan Curry, managing director of GMA, said, ”as it paves the way for the increased use of these products and funds trusted research of building materials such as geosynthetics. The IMAGINE Act will save taxpayers money, increase water safety, reduce user delay on our nation’s highways and ensure Americas infrastructure stands the test of time.”

One provision of the bill would call on the secretary of transportation to form innovative material hubs throughout the country to continue to drive research into and development of innovative materials for use in infrastructure projects. The provision was inspired by the success of communities of materials manufacturers—like advanced composites makers in Rhode Island and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tenn.—that have leveraged their innovations and expertise to grow their industry.

Reps. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; David Cicilline, D-R.I.; and Barbara Comstock, R-Va. will introduce companion legislation in the House today.

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