ARTBA: States are making their own choices about where they spend their transportation dollars. New highway and bridge construction is traditionally about 12% to 15% of total capital outlays. Most of the work done today is major reconstruction or rehabilitation work on existing roadways. We do hear anecdotally that some states are shifting toward a preservation approach.
ISSA: When increasing revenues is off the table, asset management becomes vital. Our roads and highways are an asset that must be preserved, and pavement preservation is the key to managing such an important asset.
ARRA: In good economic times, you should have done pavement preservation and/or recycling, because it is the right way to extend the life of your pavements.
Now, with even less funding, those efforts need to be escalated to the second and third powers... Recycling and /or pavement preservation techniques applied early and throughout a road’s life cycle can both extend the expected design life as well as reduce life-cycle costs.
I feel quite strongly that it is absolutely an agency road manager’s responsibility to utilize some or all of the techniques of recycling and pavement preservation. The teacher’s strike in Chicago [last year] had language about the teacher’s advancement tied to the success of the student. How about the agency engineer tied to the life cycle of the roads? Crazy, maybe, but certainly an attention getter.
ET: Road building contractors are continuing to look for more sustainable solutions in the products they produce and use (e.g, warm mix asphalt, recycled asphalt shingles, etc.). Will this trend continue to gain momentum? How much impact will it have?
NAPA: Whatever the funding level, both contractors and agencies are going to keep looking for more sustainable solutions, in terms of both economics and the environment. We will always have a need to reuse and recycle at the highest level, whether we’re talking about asphalt pavement or materials from other industries such as ground tire rubber and asphalt shingles.
Warm mix asphalt conserves energy, reduces emissions and saves money. Perpetual asphalt pavements are the ultimate in economic and environmental sustainability. There is every reason to adopt these sustainable solutions, and the barriers to using them are being blown away as we conduct research and improve the technologies.
Sustainable technologies are win-win-win propositions. In terms of momentum, it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill — it just gets bigger and moves faster all the time.
ISSA: Absolutely this trend will continue to gain momentum. LEED, Invest Tool by FHWA, recycling mandates put on agencies, political requirements/laws to reduce waste and emissions, such as California Assembly Bill 32, and most agencies adapting some type of sustainability project requirements all point to the direction the industry is heading.
This trend will have a large impact on the construction industry. There will be more requirements on contractors. But it also allows some contracting industries to expand, such as the road recycling, reclaiming and pavement preservation markets. Other traditional industries such as HMA and concrete are or will be further forced to find more environmentally attractive means of manufacturing.
That being said, it probably will not expand the marketplace. Budgets are tight and continue to shrink. It will shift the dynamics of where the opportunities lay.
ARRA: Road building contractors are often looking for a better mouse trap to make themselves more competitive in an incredibly margin-sensitive marketplace. Necessity is the mother of invention. The end result is often better, more efficient products, such as warm mix, shingles, recycling and pavement preservation, etc., for the marketplace.
Will the trend continue? The development process described above has been around for a long time. With deteriorating roads, inadequate budgets and hungry contractors, I believe the trend will continue to move forward.
What Lies Ahead
ET: Generally speaking, what will 2013 look like for asphalt highway contractors?
NAPA: NAPA believes 2013 will be slightly better than 2012. Spending in the federal-aid highway program will be flat, but we expect the residential and commercial sectors to pick up. In addition, where states, counties and cities find themselves with increased revenues, the construction industry will see more work than in prior years.