Jeb Tingle, senior research engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) in Vicksburg, Miss., delivered the plenary address at GeoDallas on Oct. 17 on “Advancing the Nation’s Infrastructure: The USACE Role.”
“There’s a big role for research and innovation,” Tingle said. “Doing business as usual won’t give us the desired results.”
But it’s not that simple to pivot to more geosynthetics research and incorporating innovation, despite recent success such as language in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 encouraging the consideration of innovative solutions such as geosynthetics.
“Some people don’t want to change or do anything new because there is risk associated with it,” Tingle said. Failure is punished, innovation is not rewarded, and there is an existing paradigm.
Reasons for this include the lack of consistent, proven performance information and a bipartisan political climate that expect “doing more with less” and emphasizes “shovel-ready” projects, which encourages doing things in ways that have been done many times before.
Tingle pointed out that the ASCE Infrastructure Report Cards for 2013 and 2017 saw no change in “grade” in the “Roads” category, scoring only a D rating.
Because “things are not improving,” as Tingle noted referring to the ASCE report cards, the ERDC is investigating improving performance, reducing costs, solving difficult problems, developing new ideas into realistic solutions and delivering innovative products using geosynthetics.
The ERDC is also looking to partner with private industry to develop innovative solutions using geosynthetic products, Tingle said. Issues with everything from helicopter pads to levee construction have been solved with such public/private partnerships with geosynthetics companies.