The pressure on DOT officials to spend their money wisely -- particularly in their choice of building materials -- has never been greater. More than 90 percent of public-sector cement construction is spent at the state level. States are all facing major budget crunches, with 47 states expected to incur budget shortfalls in 2009. Long term, the prospects for states aren't likely to improve: Nearly 23 percent of total state spending is on Medicaid, and that number should increase as the population ages.
This means that the construction and transportation projects being funded through the economic stimulus plan must be cost effective for the long term as well as the short term. Asphalt roads that require maintenance every seven or eight years are not nearly as cost-efficient as concrete roads that can last as long as 30 years without significant repair. The Portland Cement Association estimates that by using concrete instead of asphalt, states could save as much as $100 billion on roads built between now and 2015, based on the overall lifetime costs of the roads.
Job Creation at the State Level
Another critical issue for decision-makers at the state level is to determine where to invest the dollars they are receiving from the federal government for infrastructure. Over the short term, they might see some benefits in job creation through the implementation of "shovel-ready" projects such as road resurfacing or painting a bridge as opposed to building a new ramp for a bridge.
However, the investment in building new infrastructure or expanding existing infrastructure will create more jobs and bring a greater value to the community over the long term, in areas such as energy efficiency and quality of life. For example, PCA estimates the following:
- A road reconstruction that adds capacity creates 22 percent more jobs than a resurfacing.
- A new route creates 20 percent more jobs.
- A major widening project creates 17 percent more jobs.
- Bridge replacement creates 18 percent more jobs.
In addition, these types of improvements create lasting public works assets rather than short-term fixes. As dollars start becoming available for infrastructure investment -- and they are available already, with President Obama citing more than 200 projects already begun -- state officials are going to have to weigh the projects they choose based on the long-term benefits to their communities, and not merely on short-term job creation.
By using concrete as the building material of choice for these and other projects, state officials will be making a sustainable decision that will support future generations. As noted, concrete roads are more durable and require lower maintenance costs during the lifetime of the road. In addition, concrete roads can save states 20 percent or more in paving costs compared to asphalt roads.
Once In A Lifetime
The economic stimulus plan and the commitment by the federal government to invest in infrastructure provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for state, local and federal officials to build a new foundation of safe, sustainable, energy-efficient roads, bridges, buildings and other assets for their communities.
By choosing the most efficient and sustainable building material, they can build something that will last for generations to come. More and more, as they sort through their various choices, they will find the road, as it often does, will lead to concrete.
About the Author:
Al Perlman is an award-winning business journalist and media executive. He is currently a partner and co-founder at New Reality Media, a consulting and custom content company based in the New York area. For more information you can contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about the new realities of paving at the PCA's webpage