Director, Infrastructure & Transportation
Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest over $1 trillion in our nation’s infrastructure over the next five years to help address years of underinvestment. Not only will this repair infrastructure that is being used longer than its intended design life, but also addresses the demand placed in the system far exceeds its capacity creating choke points throughout the system.
Cement is the primary ingredient in concrete, an essential construction material and a basic component of our nation’s infrastructure. Portland cement is critical to the construction of highways, bridges, tunnels, mass transit systems, airports, runways, sidewalks, bike trails, dams, spillways, reservoirs, drinking and wastewater infrastructure, and commercial and residential buildings. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act places attention on what can be done to address climate and improve the resilience. Greater use of portland-limestone cement, which on average has carbon footprint that is on average ten percent less than traditional portland cement. Additionally, due to its durability, engineers look to concrete to improve the resilience of transportation assets.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included a long-term reauthorization of the surface transportation program enabling states and communities to make much needed investments critical to the country’s economic growth by ensuring the efficient movement of goods and people. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included a roughly 200 percent funding increase for highway formula programs and more than 30 percent increase for public transit formula programs, along with new transportation initiatives. This will provide states and communities the certainty needed to not only address the backlog in repair but also invest in larger projects to address greater challenges within the nation’s surface transportation network. Unfortunately, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act did not address the long-term revenue shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund.
Cement is critical to the construction of roadways in communities across the country. Roadways built with concrete have a service life of 30 to 50 years without the need for repeated resurfacing, frequent repairs, or patching. This durability means concrete roadways can better withstand the growth in natural and climate related disasters.
Additionally, as steps are taken to reduce the climate impact of transportation infrastructure, more states and communities should use portland-limestone cement. Portland-limestone cement replaces traditional portland cement on a one to one basis and produces concrete with equivalent performance but with a carbon footprint that is up to ten percent lower than other concrete. Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act should encourage more states and communities to use low-carbon building materials like portland-limestone cement.
Cement is critical to the construction of wide range of water infrastructure projects, including U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) projects, wastewater and drinking water projects, and ports across the country.
Congress must pass a Water Resources Development Act this year to continue the cycle of passing legislation every two years to advance Corps projects to help communities invest in flood risk management, ecosystem restoration, navigation, hurricane and storm damage reduction, and water supply projects. As part of this, the Corps should advance the use of portland-limestone cement for the concrete components of Corps projects to realize the emissions savings associated with its use.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act makes a historic investment in updating both the nation’s drinking and wastewater infrastructure. As part of this, the IIJA also authorizes Environmental Protection Agency programs to help communities improve the resilience and adapt to climate change of their drinking and wastewater systems. Like the Corps, the Environmental Protection Agency should bring attention to how portland-limestone cement can reduce the carbon footprint of a water infrastructure project.
As communities take steps to improve the resiliency of their water infrastructure, it is important to recognize the role of cement in helping build water infrastructure that can better withstand the growth in natural disasters. In some cases, concrete structures are paired with natural or nature-based features to improve the resiliency of water infrastructure. In improving the resilience of our nation’s water infrastructure, it is important for engineers to evaluate the costs and benefits of different approaches and project features over the long-term.
Airports across the country are continually working to modernize their infrastructure. Concrete is a critical building material for the construction of airports and runways. To help airports meet these needs, the cement industry supports lifting the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and continued funding for the Airport Improvement Program.
Continuing to deliver applied research and development of technologies for airfield pavements that provide high quality, durable, safe, and cost-effective airfield pavements is important. For these reasons, the cement industry supports the Airfield Pavement Technology Program.
In 2021, there were 20 separate billion-dollar weather and climate related disasters across the United States. This is the seventh year in which the United States experienced more than ten billion-dollar weather and climate related disasters demonstrating the need to prioritize investments in resilient infrastructure. Research demonstrates investment in resilience and mitigation yields a $13 saving for every $1 invested.
Due to its durable nature, concrete is the most disaster-resilient construction material. Concrete construction reduces building costs after natural disasters. Policy steps taken to improve the resiliency of the nation’s infrastructure should take into account the durability of construction materials. It is also important to recognize projects to improve resiliency frequently incorporate different components that work together to improve resiliency. For example, a roadway that experiences frequent flooding may be built with concrete and have a bioswale to help redirect and move the stormwater out of the roadway.
It is also important to recognize that building with concrete improves the resiliency of a building and contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Roads and bridges built with concrete help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the use phase, reducing excess fuel consumption.
Federal infrastructure policy should first take steps to improve the resiliency of the nation’s infrastructure and second recognize the role of concrete to do this.